MANILA, Philippines – With the coronavirus continuing to spread in countries around the world, the Philippine government has set guidelines to test and quarantine all overseas Filipinos and foreigners arriving from abroad.
The mandatory restrictions, put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, will see returning Filipinos and foreigners entering the country both tested and placed under quarantine before they are allowed to move on to their final destination points.
The guidelines illustrate the challenge of traveling during the pandemic and are similar to those implemented in other countries to prevent importing cases of the disease.
If you’re among the travelers allowed to enter the Philippines, here’s what you should expect.
Based on the government coronavirus task force’s Resolution No. 30 and the Department of Health’s Memorandum No. 2020-0200 or its guidelines on the management of arriving passengers, mandatory testing and quarantine will cover the following:
The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that based on travel restrictions currently in place, only a limited number of foreigners are allowed to enter the country. They include foreign spouses and children of Filipinos as well as holders of visas earlier issued to accredited foreign governments and international organization officials. Dependents of foreign officials will also be allowed in the country.
Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler
I’ve now arrived in the Philippines. What happens next?
There are several steps that will be taken to evaluate and sort travelers after they arrive in the country. If you’ve arrived at an airport, this is what will happen:
See the WHO's latest classification of transmission for each country reported to have coronavirus cases here. These classifications are reviewed on a weekly basis and can be revised if new data from countries become available.
File photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler
But before moving on, what makes stringent quarantine different from mandatory quarantine?
If you’re placed under stringent quarantine, health guidelines state you’ll be under the supervision of the Bureau of Quarantine in a facility that has been specifically designated for travelers coming from areas with high levels of community transmission. You’ll also be given a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test as opposed to a rapid antibody test.
Under mandatory quarantine, you’ll be under the care of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) or the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in a facility separate from those observing stringent quarantine.
After being sorted to undergo either stringent or mandatory quarantine, the next steps can be divided into 3 phases – getting tested, waiting for your test results, and after receiving test results.
File photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP
Health guidelines also allow foreigners who are holders of 9e visas – or visas issued to foreign government officials – and are classified for mandatory quarantine to undergo PCR testing. Their dependents will also be allowed to do the same.
In this case, testing should be done at a DOH-licensed testing facility at their own expense.
File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
You can find a list of quarantine facilities set up by both the national government and other local government units below:
The following hotels have also been approved as quarantine centers:
In any facility for stringent or mandatory quarantine, you’ll need to follow health protocols in place.
If you’re headed to a mandatory quarantine facility and were tested with a rapid antibody test, you’ll stay in isolation for 14 days, after which you can expect to be tested again. If you start to develop coronavirus symptoms at any point during quarantine, you’ll have a nasal swab taken for a PCR test.
Depending on which type of test you took – PCR test for stringent quarantine or rapid antibody test for mandatory quarantine – the following steps will be taken:
Positive PCR test
Negative PCR test
Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler
Rapid antibody test
At the end of your 14th day of mandatory quarantine, a rapid antibody test will be conducted and depending on the results, the following will happen:
You’ll be released from quarantine if:
When you’re allowed to leave quarantine, quarantine personnel will issue you a quarantine certificate. You'll then be transferred to the local government unit of your residence or destination point.
At this point, with testing and quarantine completed, you’ll be allowed to go about with your plans but of course, under a whole other set of quarantine protocols implemented in various areas in the country. – Rappler.com
TOP PHOTO: ARRIVALS. Passengers from international flights arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 in Pasay City. File photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler
For the latest quarantine protocols, refer to these guides and explainers: