COVID-19 tests not needed for OFWs returning from low, mid-level risk nations — DOH

Image title

Testing at the airport in the Philippines. (FILE PHOTO/PIA.GOV.PH)

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning from countries with a low or medium-risk prevalence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) no longer need to undergo testing at entry points, the Philippine Department of Health said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an online press briefing the testing can not be required for those returning Filipinos provided they comply strictly with minimum health standards and show no symptoms.

Countries’ risk classification will be based on the list updated weekly by the World Health Organization (WHO). Vergeire said Immigration officials in the Philippines as well as officials from the Bureau of Quarantine will be checking the OFWs if they came from low to mid-level risk nations.

The WHO classifies countries based on degrees of virus transmission.

While Hong Kong is not listed on the data table of the WHO, the territory is a special administrative region of China. China was reported to have “clusters of cases,” which meant it was getting cases connected by geography or a common source.

Vergeire said that when a returning OFW does not show any symptoms, she may be allowed to return to their province.

But the local government units have the responsibility to control their borders to curb the spread of COVID-19, by implementing their own anti-epidemic measures.

“Pag dating sa kanyang probinsya at kinailangan siyang mag-test, kailangan siyang mag-quarantine, then they have to comply with the requirements of the local government unit,” Vergeire said.

[Translation: When they reach the province and they need to test or quarantine, then they have to comply with the requirements of the local government unit.]

The adjustment was made to rationalise testing resources as well as existing protocols. Under current guidelines, OFWs will have to get tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, stay under quarantine, and then get tested again when they enter their home provinces.

Vergeire said experts thought it best to just check the symptoms of inbound Filipinos. This will address bottlenecks in testing, she added.