BoQ unloads 3K ‘balikbayan’ travelers from quarantine hotels

Hotel bedroom (Photo by Unsplash via CNN Philippines)

THE Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) will be releasing its isolation protocols for quarantine hotels with Covid-positive guests any day now.

“It’s for signature already,” said BoQ Deputy Director Dr. Roberto M. Salvador in a Viber message to the BusinessMirror. This, he said, as he assured the continued transfer of Covid-positive guests from quarantine hotels to isolation facilities.

“We were able to discharge 3,257 [on Monday]. They were those who were not transferred to isolation facilities because there were none available,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

“Their quarantine was shortened because of the latest IATF [Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases] resolution and were included in the criteria as ‘Covid recovered,’” he explained.

He failed to say what were the new quarantine/isolation regulations for international travelers, as the new IATF resolution only covers the facility-based quarantine and/or home quarantine of those who tested negative for Covid. However, the Department of Health’s new protocols for the general public provide a seven-day isolation period for fully-vaccinated individuals with no Covid symptoms, and 10-day isolation for the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated with no symptoms. The count starts from the date they tested positive.

Those who exhibit mild symptoms should isolate for seven days from the onset of said symptoms (fully vaccinated) or 10 days for the partially vaccinated or unvaccinated. Regardless of vaccination status, moderate Covid cases should isolate 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

Covid-positive ‘balikbayans’

Salvador added, “There are approximately close to 1,000 positives remaining in quarantine,” in the National Capital Region alone.

“The Covid-positivity rate of returning overseas Filipinos [ROFs] is 10 to 14 percent,” he noted. As per IATF regulations, fully-vaccinated ROFs from yellow list countries, from which are swabbed most balikbayans [homecoming Filipinos] belong, on the fifth day of their quarantine stay. If they test positive, they are supposed to be transferred by BoQ to a government-approved isolation facility.

“Everyday BoQ has been transferring more than 150 ROF/OFW [overseas Filipino workers] positives from [quarantine] hotels to isolation facilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Johanna (not her real name) said the lack of guidelines for quarantine hotels in the light of fully-occupied isolation facilities affected her parents who recently arrived from Canada. “My dad tested positive as per day 5 swabbing. I could not talk to anyone with information. Very confusing on what to do in such cases. No protocols or procedures listed down, so kanya-kanya tayo [to each his own]. There were no explanations or what.”

The reader was reacting to this paper’s story that the  Department of Tourism (DOT) could not issue guidelines regarding quarantine hotels being used as isolation facilities because BoQ had yet to issue its own protocols. (See, “Lacking BoQ guidelines, quarantine hotels cope with Covid-positive guests,” January 18, 2022.)

Johanna added, she had to send an SOS to her friends who finally hooked her up with BOQ, which “approved home quarantine for my parents because they literally have a house with no one in it anyway. But the thing is, it shouldn’t have to come to calling connections because there should be procedures already for these cases. It was embarrassing I called my friends pa.”

Many ROFs, who had tested positive for Covid, had been complaining about being stuck in their quarantine hotels, thus going over their quarantine budgets. Isolation stays in government facilities are paid for by local government units or BoQ. The recent influx of ROFs and OFWs during the holiday season, many of whom tested positive, resulted in government isolation facilities becoming fully occupied. As a result, the IATF has approved the DOT’s recommendation that quarantine hotels let Covid-positive guests stay longer and isolate there. 

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