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Fully Vaxxed With Mild COVID Get Shorter Isolation

Fully Vaxxed With Mild COVID Get Shorter Isolation
A man gets a booster shot against COVID-19 as the city government of Manila launched a drive-through vaccination drive at the Quirino Grandstand on Jan. 13, 2022 even for non-residents. Photo by Edd Gumban, The Philippine STAR

The isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals with mild or probable case of COVID-19 is now down to just seven days from the onset of symptoms, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

In a radio interview on Thursday, Jan. 13, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire also said COVID-19 testing is now optional for asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases and those with mild symptoms.

“With our vaccine coverage increasing, and backed by scientific evidence that the vaccinated have shorter time of being infectious, we have some form of contingencies,” Vergeire said.

“We give value to those vaccinated, who we know, have lower viral load therefore we can shorten the isolation and quarantine of these people,” she added.

Vergeire announced the new isolation and quarantine guidelines as well as testing policy in a Zoom presentation Wednesday night, Jan. 12. But the DOH official clarified that the new guidelines are still awaiting go signal from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

A chart released by the DOH indicates seven-day isolation from onset of symptoms for fully vaccinated probable case or mild case.

For partially vaccinated or unvaccinated patients or mild cases, isolation period is 10 days from the onset of symptoms.

For partially vaccinated or unvaccinated asymptomatic case, isolation period is 10 days from release of positive test result.

Fully vaccinated asymptomatic cases are required to undergo seven days in isolation from the release of positive test result.

Moderate cases regardless of vaccination status are required 10-day isolation from the onset of symptoms.

An isolation period of 21 days will remain for those in severe and critical condition or immunocompromised.

The DOH said the hospital infection and control committee and/or the Provincial Health Office can shorten isolation period to five days for fully vaccinated health care workers (HCWs) with boosters.

“For the quarantine of asymptomatic close contacts for the general public, policies are to be from seven days we shortened it to five days for those who are fully vaccinated, and we retained 14 days for partially or unvaccinated individuals,” Vergeire said in her presentation.

She also reported that swab testing would be optional for the community. “Specifically, testing should not be required for asymptomatic close contacts, instead symptoms monitoring is recommended,” Vergeire said.

She stressed, however, that reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction or RT-PCR testing is recommended and prioritized for health care workers, senior citizens, and persons with comorbidities.

“Testing shall be recommended and prioritized for instances where the result of testing will affect clinical management,” Vergeire noted.

The DOH official said testing should be done at least five days from the day of exposure.

Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the new DOH policy on testing only symptomatic and high-risk patients goes against public clamor for free and expanded testing.

“The DOH wants to limit testing and has all but given up on the people. It now assumes that people will probably get infected anyway, and that they should just assume the same and iso-late,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

“The DOH and the Duterte regime never runs out of policies and proposals that further marginalize the people by shifting the burden of COVID-19 response to them instead of the state,” he added.

“People need to get tested, even those without symptoms but have been exposed. People who travel or go to work need to be tested. The logical thing to do to slow down the spread of the virus is to test more people to be able to isolate and treat them,” Reyes said.

He said the administration is apparently worried that massive testing might expose the real extent of government incompetence in dealing with the pandemic.

“Is the DOH afraid of the political implications of having 40,000 new cases per day? Is the DOH worried about the Philippines reaching the four million COVID mark by February? Or is the DOH simply saying they don’t want to spend for mass testing now, a spectacularly lame assertion considering how much funds the DOH wasted in the entire Pharmally procurement mess,” he pointed out. – With Rhodina Villanueva