FILIPINOS arriving from countries considered as low to medium prevalence areas will no longer be required to undergo testing for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the Department of Health.
In a briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said under Department Memorandum No. 2020-0439, screening tests will be required depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 in the countries where the Filipinos will come from.
“If they are from a low or mid-prevalence country and asymptomatic, they shall not be required to undergo quarantine and testing at points of entry or upon arrival at their localities of destination, provided strict adherence to minimum public health standards and symptoms monitoring,” she said quoting from the memorandum on the new guidelines.
“This means they can already go back to their provinces,” she added.
The classification system of the World Health Organization is set to be used in identifying the prevalence rate of COVID-19 in each country.
Vergeire, however, said the “clearance” is without prejudice to the current health protocols being implemented by local government units (LGUs).
“When they arrive in their provinces and are required to undergo testing or quarantine, then they have to comply with these requirements of the LGU,” she said.
Under previous protocols, all arriving Filipinos must test negative for COVID-19 before they are allowed to go home to their respective families.
Asked for the reason in the change in screening protocols, Vergeire cited the need to rationalize resources and processes.
“Experts thought it best that we just do symptoms check upon arrival, and, if they are clear even for past 14 days, they can be allowed to go back to their provinces,” she said.
“This is really to rationalize protocols and avoid redundancy. There have been bottlenecks because of the repetitive protocols,” she added.
As of the latest records of the Department of Labor and Employment, 248,469 repatriated OFWs have returned to their homes.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured returning overseas Filipino workers there will be no interruption in the mandatory testing despite the decision of the Red Cross to stop accepting swab specimens that will be charged to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth).
“In light of current discussions between PhilHealth and Philippine Red Cross about the payment of PCR testing of returning OFWs, the IATF-NTF (Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases-National Task Force) has tapped government laboratories to help in the processing of PCR specimen of OFWs swabbed upon arrival at NAIA,” the agency said.