Border control measures regulate the movement of populations across countries to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 to local communities. Since the outbreak of the virus was associated with travel history, countries did well to implement various restrictive measures that limited the entry and exit of people who may carry the virus to other areas.
Local chief executives, especially those whose localities have airports, seaports, and other open passages for trade and tourist activities, need to put border control measures in place for the safety of their constituents. Delaying the implementation of such measures can cause higher risks of transmission. At the same time, border control should also take into consideration the welfare of Locally Stranded Individuals (LSI) and their need to be provided with safe means to return to their homes.
Health Screenings at Points of Entry
Health agencies and COVID-19 task forces are advised to conduct Exit and Entry Health Screenings to travelers as they depart from or arrive at the Points of Entry (POE), in order to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and to provide necessary mitigation measures. Public health screening is performed in two stages:
POEs also provide the risk communication team the opportunity to inform the public about COVID-19 and its causes of transmission, the process of self-monitoring for symptoms, the recommended care, the presence of local transmissions, and the emergency hotlines or news websites that they can access if needed.
Public health screening processes should also adjust according to the evolution of the pandemic monitored at a global, national, and local level. Depending on the situation, screening procedures can be scaled up or down as needed.
Arrivals of Returning Residents, Returning Overseas Filipinos, and other Authorized Persons Outside Residence
The National Task Force against COVID-19 recommends a process flow for screening Returning Residents (RR), Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROF), and other Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR) upon their arrival at local entry points. These classifications are further defined below.
Also allowed are private individuals (1 per household) buying basic necessities and other essential services.
Requirements upon entering local borders
In the screening process, the first step is the requirement of a Registration Form (left) to be presented by all three types of arriving individuals.
Other documentation such as Travel Orders, Medical Certificates, or proofs of negative RT-PCR result are required as appropriate for each type of individual.
RRs and ROFs who are subject to COVID-19 testing are required to stay in the accredited quarantine facilities until their results come out. Then, the next steps for case management are followed depending on whether they will be allowed to continue their 14-day quarantine period at home (for negative result) or be transferred to a health facility for further monitoring (for positive result).
The Municipality of Odiongan, Romblon is a major port and a center for commercial activity. With the threat of COVID-19 transmission, Mayor Trina Firmalo-Fabic issued a guideline requiring a Notice of Coordination to be presented at the port should anyone wish to leave or enter the municipality.
This strategy for border control helped the LGU prevent any unofficial and unannounced visits to the municipality. It also afforded them effective crowd control by keeping the number of people at the port each day at a manageable level in compliance with minimum standard health protocols. Not only that, it allowed them to account for LSIs returning to the municipality as well.
Once passengers reach the port, they are required to fill out a Health Declaration Form. Then, a
health checkup is conducted by the health workers on-site. Afterwards, passengers are brought to the quarantine facility by the transport service provided by the LGU. Passengers from the port are not allowed to ride mass transportation. All of them must ride the LGU-designated vehicle that will bring them straight to the quarantine facility where they get an assigned room with a bed.
With the transport sector being one of the most affected sectors during total lockdown periods, the City Government of Iriga took this opportunity to utilize around 2,000 tricycle drivers and operators to help implement border control. In their locality, these drivers are required to train in basic life support for their franchise to be approved. Thus, the LGU took them onboard the border control team and assigned the drivers to monitor checkpoints near the rivers and mountains to restrict people from doing recreational activities during the lockdown period. These drivers and operators were called TODARescue. Aside from monitoring, they also fulfill risk communication tasks as they were the ones to educate people found violating the minimum health protocols.
Recognizing the paralyzing effect of a total lockdown on the local economy, Mayor Oscar ‘Oca’ Moreno implemented a localized focused containment in three areas in Cagayan de Oro in lieu of a total lockdown after a few residents tested positive for COVID-19. Around 45 families affected by the containment were all provided with food assistance during the containment period. To further prevent the spread of the virus, the City Government urged the residents to observe basic health practices and to limit non-essential travel. Mayor Moreno also highlighted that along with the focused containment protocol, their contract tracing activities and case management strategies remained in place, assuring the public that the key responders were fully capable of handling local COVID-19 cases.
- “Considerations for Health Screening for COVID-19 at Points of Entry,” Migration and Border Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last updated February 24, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/migration-border-health/considerations-border-health-screening.html
- Duties and responsibilities of Local Government Officials, DILG Regional Directors and Field Officers, Philippine National Police, and others concerned on the management of Returning Overseas Filipinos and Locally Stranded Individuals (May 21, 2020), Memorandum Circular No. 2020-087.
- Jigger Jerusalem, “CDO mayor rebuffs calls for ECQ,” published April 30, 2020, https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1101529
- Jo Ann Sablad, “3 areas in Cagayan de Oro under localized focused containment,” Sunstar.com.ph, published October 5, 2020, https://www.sunstar.com.ph/article/1872451/Cagayan-De-Oro/Local-News/3-areas-in-Cagayan-de-Oro-under-localized-focused-containment
- National Task Force against COVID-19, Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Manual for COVID-19 at the City and Municipal Level.
- Philippine National Police, “Authorized persons who can go outside their residences during Enhanced Community Quarantine,” accessed May 26, 2021, http://www.pnp.gov.ph/images/Module/3192020.pdf