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IATF lifts requirement for airlines to set up isolation areas on domestic flights

Airlines operating domestic flights are no longer required to convert a section of the aircraft cabin into an isolation area for passengers or crew who display COVID-19 symptoms.

In a resolution approved on Thursday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) said such a measure “shall no longer be mandated to be part of the COVID-19 health protocols.”

The change in policy was endorsed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Asked to explain the IATF’s decision, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday that airlines had already required passengers to present RT-PCR or antigen test results prior to departure.

Symptomatic individuals will also not be allowed to board the aircraft, he added.

“The IATF decision is based on the grounds that guidelines were issued based on available information at the time, and that more information is now available on how COVID-19 is transmitted in closed settings,” Roque said in a statement.

“Also, there are now more improved health protocols from boarding to landing to use of High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. It was also pointed out that domestic flights are of short duration only generally not exceeding 1.5 hours."

Roque also cited the CAAP’s statement that the removal of this requirement will not contravene World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines and protocols.

The IATF has also ordered local government units (LGUs) to relax health entry protocols imposed upon airline crew layovers/positioning due to emergency situations (typhoons, volcanic activities, diversions and emergency landings, other similar unforeseen and time-sensitive evacuations).

This means airline crew will be exempted from the test-upon-arrival requirement, and be allowed to stay temporarily in accommodation establishments under a “bubble” concept as supervised by the LGUs.

“For this purpose, the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] is instructed to coordinate with all LGUs to align their health entry protocols for this limited purpose. The CAAP is likewise instructed to supervise and police the implementation of these activities,” the resolution stated.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), meanwhile, was authorized to set up a corporate jet flight maintenance and crew layover hub at the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone under a “strict bubble concept,” the IATF said.—AOL, GMA News