IATF may further ease Covid border restrictions, says DOH’s Vergeire

Department of Health (DOH) Officer in Charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire on Tuesday said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is set to meet in the coming weeks to discuss options on easing of border restrictions.

“During the first IATF, we have agreed that we will have our Technical Working Group of the IATF to already discuss the border restrictions in the country, whether it be foreign, whether it be national,” Vergeire said in a news briefing.

“Titingnan natin kung base sa safety protocols natin ay pwedeng nating ma-ease some of those restrictions [We will see if based on our safety protocols, we can already ease some of the restrictions],” Vergeire added.

Vergeire also said that the directive of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is to be able to open up more sectors and ease border restrictions, hence the need to amend or rescind the Executive Order (EO) 168 which created the IATF.

Among the functions of the IATF, under the EO 168, is to prevent and/or minimize the entry of suspected or confirmed patients with emerging infectious diseases (EID) into the country through rigid screening and identification of EID suspects, and the institutionalization of a surveillance, alert, and quarantine system in all ports of entry.

“Pag-uusapan ito lahat sa [We will talk about all of these in] IATF because we need to be able to rescind kung saka-sakali, o amyendahan itong [if ever or amend this] EO 168 for us to relax these restrictions,” she said.

On the other hand, Vergeire clarified that the One Health Pass (OHP) was created not to add unnecessary burden to inbound international travelers.

“Itong database na ito ay napaka-importante specifically kapag tayo ay nagko-contract tracing, kapag tayo ay may hinahanap na tao na (This database is very important specifically for contact tracing, if we are looking for a person) afflicted with a specific disease, this is what we use,” the DOH official said.

Increase in Covid cases

Meanwhile, the DOH said that cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) continue to increase while “Plus Areas” showed marginal case increase in recent days; rest of Luzon and Mindanao are now showing signs of plateauing; Visayas maintains a slow downward trend.

ICU and severe and critical admissions in NCR, meanwhile, continue to slow down.

“Even in the simplest ways of following our minimum public health standards, such as isolating when sick, ensuring good airflow,

and wearing of masks, we can prevent Covid-19 transmission,” Vergeire said as she encouraged the public to get vaccinated and get their boosters done through the PinasLakas campaign.

“It helps in strengthening our wall of immunity, which aids in protecting every Juan and Juana especially the elderly and the immunocompromised,” she said. -30-