The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the Department of Health's recommendation to let inbound travelers test for COVID-19 on the seventh day of their quarantine.
In a televised announcement, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced the new testing protocol on Friday, May 7.
The IATF will implement the new testing protocol for arriving passengers in all ports of entry to the Philippines.
In the current protocol, the IATF mandates Filipinos and foreign nationals who enter the country to undergo facility-based quarantine upon arrival and then be swab tested on the fifth day of their quarantine.
“Na-aprubahan na sa IATF kahapon itong ating nirekomenda na magkaroon ng seventh day testing. No testing upon arrival, seventh-day po ang testing and completed 10-day quarantine here at the national level," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press briefing.
(The IATF approved yesterday our recommendation to have a seventh day testing for travelers. There will be no testing upon arrival. The test will be conducted on the seventh day, and the travelers should complete ten days of quarantine at the national level.)
She added that after the 10th day, inbound travelers would be endorsed to their respective local governments. The local governments must also ensure that the travelers will complete the remaining four days of quarantine.
"This is a process so we can ensure then even though some travelers, especially Filipinos, can enter the country, we can quarantine them properly so we can break the chain of infection," Vergeire said.
Vergeire noted concerned agencies agreed to implement the revised testing protocol for arriving passengers "at the soonest possible time" and added that they must formulate protocols before the implementation of the new rule.
The DOH revised the protocol after finding evidence that an individual's viral load is high on the seventh or eighth day.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), tasked by the national government to standardized the length of the quarantine periods and the timing of test results.
"The DOTr shall ascertain that swabbing will be done at exactly the 7th day and results will be on the 9th day. Day of release from the quarantine facility shall be standardized on the 10th day," said Roque.
The 7th-day swab test will be done for incoming travelers through double swabbing to ensure that the specimen can properly undergo whole-genome sequencing.
A Whole Genome Sequencing is a laboratory procedure to identify if specific variants are present in the specimen.
Furthermore, a "One Hotel Command" will also be implemented to coordinate with all hotels designated as quarantine facilities.
The DOT will establish the Reminiscent of the One Hospital under the DOH.
The government will also tap police personnel to strengthen the security in quarantine facilities and augment the Philippine Coast Guard, the agency currently in charge of security for this kind of establishment.
Sources: PhilStar, Inquirer.Net, Rappler