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IATF tells Cebu: Obey guidelines on arrivals of passengers from abroad

Task force directs PNP, AFP, gov’t agencies to enforce rules

By: Leila B. Salaverria - Philippine Daily Inquirer | June 19,2021 - 06:54 AM

The Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA). | INQUIRER VISAYAS

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s pandemic task force has directed state agencies, including the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to ensure that its testing and quarantine protocols for passengers arriving from abroad are followed in all ports of the country.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) issued this directive on Friday as Cebu province continues to defy the task force’s rules even after President Duterte ordered the province to comply with the national government’s protocols.

Cebu has enforced its own swab-upon-arrival policy where it allows passengers from abroad who test negative after two to three days to proceed to their destination instead of completing a mandatory 10-day quarantine at a facility regardless of test results.

The IATF requires a facility-based quarantine for 10 days, with the swab test to be taken on the seventh day. This would be followed by a four-day home quarantine.

The IATF is standing pat on these rules for inbound international travelers, Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said in a statement on Friday.

Roque said the PNP, the AFP, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and all other concerned agencies were instructed to ensure “strict adherence” to the IATF rules.

Catastrophic effect

Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease expert and member of the health department’s technical advisory group, said on Friday that it was important to follow the 10-day facility-based quarantine followed by the four-day home quarantine to make sure the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant first detected in India would not spread in the country.

He noted that Taiwan recently experienced an outbreak after it shortened its quarantine requirement to three days for pilots, and implemented a testing-on-arrival policy.

Molecular biologist and Octa Research fellow Nicanor Austriaco said on Thursday that the 10-day facility-based quarantine was 99.7-percent effective at preventing variants from entering a country.

Austriaco warned that if the Delta variant enters Cebu, it would be “catastrophic because we will get another surge and it would destroy Christmas this year.”

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia urged the IATF to listen to Cebu’s officials first before insisting on adopting its protocols.

“We (provincial officials) are willing to listen to the policy laid out by the IATF. I hope, by coming to Cebu, the task force will also listen to what we have here. The art of negotiation is to come up with a win-win solution. That’s why we invited them (IATF). I hope they will open their minds,” she said.

The province earlier amended its guidelines to include a second swab test on the seventh day but still refused to give up on its test-on-arrival and shorter quarantine policies. —WITH REPORTS FROM DALE G. ISRAEL AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL

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