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Quarantine hotels told to keep Covid guests as government runs out of isolation rooms

File photo: Karlo Nograles

QUARANTINE hotels are now supposed to keep their Covid-positive guests on their premises, due to the current lack of government isolation facilities.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said on Friday the proposal was forwarded by the Department of Tourism (DOT), which just last month, sent notices of explanation to some hotels for reportedly allowing the transfer of Covid-positive guests to their respective establishments.

He also said the travel ban for international tourists continues to be in place. Canada, meanwhile, is now on the Red List of countries. It is a major source of balikbayan (homecoming Filipinos) tourists, along with the US, which remains on the Yellow List.

In a news briefing, Nograles said in Filipino, “With the meeting and the approval of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease), we already have a new resolution that allows quarantine hotels to also have isolation floors, so there would be no more constant transfers of ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos) or OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) from one quarantine facility to an isolation facility.”

Under previous protocols, quarantining international arriving passengers who have tested positive for Covid-19 are transferred to a separate isolation facility.

No consultations

Industry sources said, however, hotels were not consulted about the matter. “We’re still trying to clarify with the DOT to ensure hotels are compliant [with the policy].”

This was confirmed by Philippine Hotel Owners Association Executive Director Benito C. Bengzon in a Viber message: “PHOA has not received any official communication from the DOT regarding this matter.”

Asked what was behind agency’s recommendation, an official who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the matter, told the BusinessMirror, “It was discussed in the IATF [meeting] that there were so many arrivals testing positive for Covid-19, and there were no more isolation rooms for them to transfer because many locals are also positive. Better for the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) to come up with strict guidelines/protocols for some quarantine hotels to be able to house isolation guests.”

The official added, “I’m sure not all [hotels] will be ale to comply [with the BOQ guidelines]. Of course, the hotel has to agree [with the directive],” i.e., it has the prerogative to keep its premises free of Covid-positive guests.

Isolation floors

At the briefing, Nograles said, “He added, if the DOT and BOQ allow it, “some quarantine hotel facilities can have isolation floors exclusive for those who have tested positive so he doesn’t have to keep transferring from one building to a different building.”

ROFs such as balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) have been complaining on social media that they have not been pulled out of their quarantine hotels for transfer to isolation facilities, after being notified that they were positive for Covid, thus increasing their hotel expenses.

To which Nograles replied, “Well, we don’t have a choice if we are positive. And if positive, we have protocols. Of course, we have to manage those positive, depending on the protocols. Of course, we are checking and we don’t release [the individual] until he has been assessed that he is already negative or cleared for release. I’m sure our kababayan that while they remain positive after an RT-PCR test, we really cannot release them.”

The IATF also updated its protocols for arrivals from red, green, and yellow countries. Vaccinated individuals from Green List countries should submit a negative RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours prior to boarding their plane. They also no longer need to quarantine in a hotel upon arrival.

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