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Gov’t alters testing for foreign travelers to catch new strain

THE PHILIPPINES on Wednesday updated its testing protocols for foreign travelers to ensure the detection of new coronavirus strains.

Travelers arriving in the country will get tested for the coronavirus on the fifth day of their stay starting Feb. 1, regardless of origin, according to the presidential palace.

They must also get quarantined at a facility as soon as they arrive, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement on Wednesday, citing an order by an inter-agency task force (IATF) against the coronavirus.

“They shall then undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain (RT-PCR) test on the fifth day from their date of arrival in the country, unless the passenger shows symptoms at an earlier date while on quarantine,” he added.

Before this, only foreigners from countries with known coronavirus strains were required to get tested on the fifth day.

Under the latest order, however, travelers from other countries need not get tested upon arrival at the airport.

The Department of Health (DoH) recommended the fifth-day test after co-passengers and the partner of a 29-year-old Filipino infected with a strain first detected in Britain tested negative upon arrival in Manila from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Jan. 7. They later tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus.

Mr. Roque said the task force met on Tuesday to update the quarantine protocols for foreign travelers.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,245 cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to 518,407. The death toll rose by 95 to 10,481, while recoveries climbed by 140 to 475,542, it said in a bulletin.

The Philippine death rate was at 2.02%, while the recovery rate was at 91.7%, it said.

There were 32,384 active cases, 84.5% of which were mild, 9.2% did not show symptoms, 3.4% were critical, 2.4% were severe and 0.48% were moderate. .

Baguio City and Cebu City reported the highest number of new cases at 121 each, followed by Davao City at 102, Quezon City at 87 and Pangasinan at 81.

DoH said three duplicates and a case that had tested negative were removed from the tally, while 19 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit their data on Jan. 26.

About 7.2 million Filipinos have been tested as of Jan. 25, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened more than 100.9 million and killed about 2.2 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 72.9 million people have recovered, it said.

The Philippines on Jan. 15 extended the travel ban on more than 30 countries with confirmed cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variant until the end of the month.

Included in the ban are the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, the United States, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Austria, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Hungary. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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