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Indian variant threat prompts new measures

/ 05:30 AM May 08, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The government is ramping up measures to block the entry of the Indian variant of the coronavirus that is believed to be killing tens of thousands daily during the current surge in COVID-19 cases in the South Asian country, according to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.

Under new guidelines issued by the government’s pandemic managers, all Filipino and foreign travelers arriving in the country starting on Friday this week will be required to spend the first 10 days of a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a government accredited facility.

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They will be swabbed twice on the seventh day to provide specimen samples for genome sequencing necessary to identify the variant in those found positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Those found positive will be taken to a hospital.

The remaining four days of quarantine of those found negative may be completed at the home, hotel or lodging place in the traveler’s final destination, according to the quarantine rules issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

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The Department of Transportation (DOTr) was directed to ensure that the results of the swab tests would be released on the ninth day of quarantine.

The Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) would strictly monitor those in the facility for symptoms, Roque said.

He said the new testing and quarantine measures from the IATF as well as the genome sequencing were meant to address concerns about the Indian and other variants of the coronavirus.

“We are really preparing and being careful,” he said.

These measures “are intended to prevent the entry of the Indian variant,” even if they entailed more expenses for the government, which will pay for the quarantine facilities to be used by returning overseas Filipino workers, Roque said.

“We ask for everybody’s understanding and cooperation,” he said.

The quarantine measures are in addition to the April 29 to May 14 ban on travelers from India.

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Oxygen supply assured

Roque said the government was also taking steps to increase the number of hospital and isolation beds in case the variant enters the country.

The IATF has been assured that the country has enough oxygen supply and there are plans to get more should the need arise, he said.

Drugs proven effective in treating COVID-19, such as remdesivir, are also being stockpiled, he added.

“We have foresight and we have learned what to do since we have been experiencing the COVID pandemic for a year, and we also know how to treat those infected with COVID,” he added.

The DOTr and Departments of Health (DOH), Foreign Affairs, Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and the BOQ, will disseminate advisories on the new quarantine protocols.

The Department of Tourism will establish the “One Hotel Command,” together with other agencies, to deal with concerns regarding quarantine facilities, which will be secured by the Philippine Coast Guard with the help of the Philippine National Police.

The DOH was tasked with coordinating with the agencies directly involved in the quarantine measures, and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, to enhance the current symptom tracking mechanisms and provide additional personnel to process and act on symptom tracking information.

Ship crew monitored

Also on Friday, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) reported that two Filipino crew members of a container ship that had traveled from India were taken to a hospital after falling seriously ill with COVID-19.

It said 10 other members of the 21-man all-Filipino crew of MV Athens Bridge were also positive for the coronavirus but were “contained” in the ship as part of the country’s health protocols, the Marina said.

All the crew members were first tested when they arrived in Haiphong, Vietnam, on May 1, after sailing from India on April 22. The Vietnamese authorities reportedly refused to allow the ship to enter their country.

The ship then sailed to the Philippines where the BOQ and the DOH allowed it to drop anchor in Manila Bay.

Recoveries hit 1M

The DOH on Friday said the number of patients who had recovered from COVID-19 had breached the 1 million mark.

The 4,227 new recoveries brought the total number of survivors in the country to 1,003,160.

There were, however, 7,733 new cases, which pushed the country’s total case count to 1,087,885.

Another 108 had died, raising the death toll to 18,099.

The recoveries and deaths left 66,626 active cases. Of the total, 94 percent are mild, 2 percent asymptomatic, 11 percent critical, 1.5 percent severe and 0.98 percent moderate.

—WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS AND PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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TAGS: COVID-19, Health, India, pandemic, Philippines, quarantine protocols, Travel, variant
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