LAGING HANDA PRESSS BRIEFING/ FEBRUARY 24,2020 Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles answers question from media during the Laging Handa press breifing on the update of COVID 19. INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

Malacanang announced Friday that foreign tourists who have been fully vaccinated and business travelers will be allowed to enter the country next month without needing to pass through quarantine.

This will be the first visit by these tourists to the country since 2020 when the country closed its borders to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Karlo Nograles, acting presidential spokesperson, stated that fully vaccinated citizens from countries that do not require visas will be permitted to travel beginning February 10.

There are 157 countries that are visa-free. This includes the United States, South Korea and Japan, Australia, Canada, Canada, and all other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, (IATF) has updated the regulations to require that passports of these travelers be valid for at most six months after their arrival. They must also have return tickets or outbound tickets for their next destination.

Proof of vaccination, passports

They will also need to present proof of COVID-19 vaccine, such as a World Health Organization International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis or a VaxCertPh or a digital certificate from a foreign government that has accepted the VaxCertPH in a reciprocal arrangement.

Children under 18 years old will not need to be vaccinated.

The government will stop dividing countries into red, green, and yellow effective February 1, 2019. This is in response to the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

According to the IATF, fully inoculated patients will no longer need to be quarantined at facilities.

They will also not be included in the Department of Transportation’s arrival quota.

Passengers who are not vaccinated

However, foreigners who are not vaccinated will be barred from entering the country beginning February 16.

Teodoro Locsin Jr., Foreign Secretary, said Friday in a tweet that “We are contemplating letting in unvaccinated people but with long quarantines.”

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated passengers, as well as passengers whose inoculation status can not be verified, must submit a negative PCR test. They will then be quarantined at the facility until they are released with their test results.

They will be subject to home quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.

Only fully vaccinated people will be asked to keep a close eye on their health for seven days.

They will need to provide a negative PCR test within 48 hours of departing from their country of origin.

These protocols and testing are available to all foreign travelers who have been placed in quarantine since February 1, regardless of whether they are Filipino or not.

‘Giant leap’

Maria Rosario Vergeire, Health Undersecretary, stated that the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated patients was eliminated because experts feel it “doesn’t make sense anymore” given the high levels of coronavirus transmission.

She said that analysis by the Philippine Genome Center showed that only a small number of Filipinos returning from overseas had tested positive for COVID-19.

Nograles stated that the new IATF rules will allow the tourism industry to recover. This will lead to significant job creation, livelihood, and economic growth in the country.

Bernadette Romulo Puyat, Tourism Secretary, stated in a statement that she was confident that the government will keep up with Asean neighbours who have made similar efforts to reopen for foreign tourists.

Jaime Morente, Immigration Commissioner, stated that the country’s reopening its borders was a “great leap towards the rebound in tourism and international travel.”

Joey Concepcion, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship, stated that “We can now accept both leisure and business travellers, and this will reap the benefits downstream for our [micro-, small, or medium enterprises].