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Restrictions on travel abroad lifted, protocols set

The government has allowed Filipinos to resume non-essential travels abroad but imposed certain conditions to ensure their safety and health amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Malacanang said Tuesday.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said non-essential outbound travel will be allowed, but travelers must present confirmed round-trip tickets for those traveling on tourist visas as well as travel health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses. Travelers will also have to execute a declaration acknowledging the risks involved in traveling.

The country of destination should also have no existing entry ban on foreigners, including Filipinos.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said international flight travel restrictions at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and a travel ban on arriving foreign nationals are still in place during the general community quarantine (GCQ) in the entire National Capital Region (NCR).

READ: NAIA T3 open to international flights on July 8

Foreign nationals not married to a Filipino are still not allowed to enter.

Exempted from the temporary ban are officials of foreign government and international organizations accredited with the Philippines who have a valid visa.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has released new guidelines which allow barbershops and salons to offer more services other than haircuts, Malacañang announced on Tuesday.

“The services barbershops and parlors can offer are no longer limited to basic haircutting services,” Roque said in a virtual press conference aired on state-run PTV-4.

This developed as the government eased its quarantine and health protocols by reopening the economy to allow Filipinos to recover from the crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roque cited DTI Memorandum 20-38, which states that barbershops and salons operating in areas under GCQ may now offer all haircutting and hair treatment services.

Roque said customers who are residing in areas under modified GCQ may avail of haircutting, hair treatment, and nail care services.

He said barbershops and salons in MGCQ zones may also perform basic facial care such as make-up, eyebrow threading, eyelash extension, and facial massage.

He added that basic personal care services like waxing, threading, shaving, foot spa, and hand spa can also be done by barbershops and salons in places put under MGCQ.

On July 2, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved Resolution 41, which lifts restrictions on the resumption of partial operations of barbershops and salons.

Roque said operating capacities of barbershops and salons will remain at 30 percent in areas under GCQ and 50 percent in areas under MGCQ until July 15.

Beginning July 16, the operating capacity of barbershops and salons under GCQ and MGCQ would be 50 percent and 75 percent, respectively, Roque added.

Roque said barbershops and salons are mandated to follow strict protocol on hand sanitation, face mask and face shields, gloves, and sterilized equipment.

He said owners of barbershops and salons in GCQ and MGCQ zones are required to observe the strict implementation of “no face mask, no entry” policy.

He said there should also be provision for rubbing alcohol which can be easily sprayed on the hands of personnel, suppliers and customers prior to entry.

Barbershops and salons, Roque said, should also register with SafePass or staysafe.ph or administer health declaration checklist for the purposes of contact tracing to personnel suppliers, and customers.

Thermal scanning should also be conducted before all personnel, suppliers, and customers can enter any barbershop or salon, Roque said.

Roque added that persons with a temperature higher than 27.5 degrees centigrade cannot avail of any grooming services.

“All those who are exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, and breathing difficulties should not be allowed to enter,” he said.

Roque said personnel with COVID-19 symptoms or with exposure to COVID-19 patients should not also be allowed to work.

Roque said the distance of chairs allowed to be occupied in barbershops and salons should be at least one meter on all sides.

He said customers are not allowed to bring companions, “unless absolutely necessary.”

He added that there should be proper ventilation and an exhaust system in the establishment.

Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, warned that the continued surge in COVID-19 cases would prove disastrous to efforts to restore the economy.

He expressed alarm over the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country and attributed it to the lack of epidemiological surveillance to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in real-time.

“The rising number of cases, especially in the past three days should already be a red flag. We should make the necessary adjustments immediately because we cannot afford another lockdown,” Villanueva said.

He also noted that it is a clear indication of how health authorities are mishandling the pandemic response.

“Business confidence is tied with trust in the health sector management. Industries and productive economic sectors won’t risk resuming operations if there is a strong possibility of another lockdown, which would be disastrous for our economy, and consequently for our workers as well,” Villanueva said.

He said epidemiological monitoring and surveillance give authorities a clear picture of the situation on the ground, allowing them to deploy resources and tools to prevent the spread of the disease.

He said efforts of the government to contain the disease could be described as passive surveillance, which the World Bank describes as “a system by which a health jurisdiction receives reports submitted from hospitals, clinics, public health units, or other sources.”

While considered as an “inexpensive strategy to cover large areas,” passive surveillance could lead to discrepancies and delays in data, the lawmaker said.

Instead of passive surveillance, Villanueva said the government should shift its strategy to active surveillance, where authorities seek out information in communities, and use the data to tailor-fit the response. The strategy requires more staffing, which should be beneficial for displaced workers, he said.

Also on Tuesday, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) provided medical assistance to 15 stranded foreign seafarers on board the Spanish-flagged vessel MV Celanova, which remains stranded one nautical mile from the shore of Manila since February.

READ: Palace: Business outlets at NAIA to make room for passenger seats

On July 3, a four-man team from the PRC went on board the vessel to provide medical aid, and to distribute hygiene kits and food items to the distressed seafarers composed of 13 Cubans and two Spanish nationals.

According to news reports, MV Celanova, a Spanish LPG tanker owned by Global Gas SA from Madrid, Spain, had been abandoned by its owner and eventually held by Philippine port state control authorities for rudder damage and some technical issues.

It was also reported that the crew on board were left without water for drinking, medicine and basic supplies, and enough food to eat.

“When we learned about the incident, we immediately sent a team to check on the seafarers’ conditions and to know what other assistance are needed so we can provide right away. The Philippine Red Cross is always ready to help not just our fellow Filipinos but other nations and international organizations, as well,” PRC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Senator Richard J. Gordon said.

In a letter addressed to Gordon, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. expressed gratitude for the assistance extended by the PRC to the sailormen.

“The timely assistance of the Philippine Red Cross shows the world the compassionate and encompassing heart of the Filipinos. The kind gesture manifests that we do not only take care of our own but also other nationalities in need,” Locsin said.

READ: Cebu Pacific, Cebgo resume local flights

Topics: Harry Roque , COVID-19 , Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases , Department of Trade and Industry , Ninoy Aquino International Airport
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