Lacking BoQ guidelines, quarantine hotels cope with Covid-positive guests 

Hotel disinfection (Photo courtesy of CNN Philippines)

QUARANTINE hotels have assured the public they are not flying blind in handling Covid-19 positive guests in their establishments, despite the lack of guidelines from the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ).

This developed as the Department of Tourism (DOT) confirmed it is just waiting for the BOQ before it releases its own, following a government task force’s decision to allow Covid-positive guests to remain in their quarantine hotels due to the lack of BoQ isolation facilities.

DOT Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Special Concerns Edwin R. Enrile said, “BoQ will come out with the issuance. They said they will try ASAP before end of the week. DOT will just adjust accordingly and if needed.” In the past, quarantine guests who test positive for Covid are transferred by the BoQ to its supervised isolation facilities. The recent holidays, however, encouraged the return of balikbayans (homecoming Filipinos) and overseas Filipino workers to come home to their families. With many testing positive though, isolation facilities have been overrun with guests.

No data was available on the number of Covid-positive guests still stuck in quarantine hotels.

For his part, Philippine Hotel Owners Association (PHOA) Executive Director Benito C. Bengzon Jr. said, “The hotels will continue to follow the prescribed health and safety protocols and will await the guidelines from the BoQ and the DOT.”

In the case of SM Hotels and Conventions Corp., Executive Vice President Peggy Angeles told the BusinessMirror, “For multi-use hotels, they designate separate floors or wings (if applicable) for quarantine guests. Separate entrance and lifts (elevators). Typically guests are tested on the fifth day. If tested positive, they will have to stay in the same room and are not allowed to leave their room to isolate until they are cleared or extracted by BoQ. It’s unnecessary to change rooms.”

She added, “Once the room is vacated, it is totally disinfected and not turned around for immediate sale. This can be up to 72 hours before it is reallocated, which is why a quarantine hotel will never really be 100-percent occupied.”

SMHRC quarantine hotels are also multiple-use hotels — Conrad Manila; Park Inn by Radisson in Clark, North Edsa, and Davao; as well as Radisson Blu in Cebu. Multi-use hotels are accommodation establishments allowed to accept quarantine guests along with “business guests and participants in essential meetings and social meetings, and social events as defined and regulated by the DOT and Department of Health.”

According to Secretary to the Cabinet Karlo Nograles, “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 from one quarantine facility to an isolation facility.” (See, “Quarantine hotels told to keep Covid guests as government runs out of isolation rooms,” in the BusinessMirror, January 14, 2022.)

In an advisory on January 12 signed by Deputy Director Roberto M. Salvador and Director Ferdinand S. Salcedo, a copy of which was obtained by this paper, BoQ said: “With the sharp increase in Covid-19 cases among ROFs and OFWs and the full occupancy of our government-provided isolation facilities due to high positivity rate in international arriving passengers, the [BoQ] would like to inform all those concerned that there will be a delay in the conduction and transfer of positive ROFs and OFWs to their designated isolation facility.”

They added: “Rest assured that the Bureau is continuously coordinating with our partner government agencies for assistance in the allocation of isolation facilities… [and that] the Bureau is working 24/7 to respond to the medical needs of our ROFs and OFWs in their quarantine hotels.”

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