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Phl reopening borders to foreign tourists

The Philippines will reopen its borders to fully-vaccinated foreign nationals for tourism and business purposes as the government seeks to boost its pandemic recovery efforts.

Under Resolution No. 159, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said international travelers from non-visa requiring countries may enter the country starting 10 February.

They should present state-recognized documents as proof of their Covid-19 vaccination, such as the World Health Organization International Certificates of Vaccination and Prophylaxis, VaxCertPH, or a digital certificate of the foreign government which has accepted VaxCertPH under a reciprocal arrangement unless otherwise permitted by the IATF.

Minors or those aged below 18 were exempted from the requirement of full vaccination and providing proof of vaccination status before boarding their flights.

All foreign travelers, however, should hold passports valid for at least six months at the time of their arrival, as well as tickets back to their home countries or next country of destination, the task force said.

They were also required to observe the existing testing and quarantine rules for fully-vaccinated Filipinos who wish to return to the Philippines.

The new IATF resolution covered non-visa requiring countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States of America.

The full list of countries covered by the new policy could be accessed through the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Uniform protocols On the other hand, the government updated its protocols for returning overseas Filipinos regardless of their countries of origin.

It came after the IATF had suspended the Covid-19 risk classifications of territories, commonly known as the “green,” “yellow,” and “red” lists.

Under the updated guidelines, which were set to take effect on 1 February, all inbound Filipino travelers — regardless of their vaccination status — should present negative swab tests taken 48 hours before their departure from their host countries.

They were no longer required to observe mandatory facility-based quarantine, but should self-monitor for any Covid-19 symptom for seven days — with the first day being the date of arrival.

Returning Filipinos were also mandated to report any manifestation of Covid-19 to the local government units of their destinations.

For unvaccinated and partially vaccinated Filipinos, as well as individuals whose vaccination status cannot be validated, they were required to undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of their negative swab tests on the fifth day. They should complete the remaining nine-day quarantine at their homes.

According to the IATF, the local government units of their destination and its respective barangay health emergency response teams were tasked to monitor the arriving passengers undergoing home quarantine.

Children aged 12 and below who cannot be vaccinated should follow the quarantine protocols of their parents or their guardians traveling with them.

The government’s decision to lift up the two-year restriction on foreign tourists was meant to boost the economy, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.

“With this, the tourism industry will now recover,” he said. “It will help in generating jobs and for our economic growth.”

A major driver of the Philippine economy, tourism accounted for nearly 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019. The tourism industry also provides sources of income to millions of Filipinos across the archipelago.

The country saw a significant drop in foreign arrivals last year after it closed its borders amid the pandemic, receiving only nearly 1.4 million visitors, 83 percent lower compared to nearly 8.2 million arrivals in 2019.

Meanwhile, the health department assured Filipinos that the new measure allowing vaccinated travelers to skip facility-based quarantine won’t threaten public health.

“The public should not worry,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, who is also spokesperson of the agency. “Most of the Covid-19 cases in our communities did not come from returning overseas Filipinos.”

Source: Daily Tribune

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