Let’s put things in proper perspective with fifteen (15) bullet points:
1. DOH quarantined the peacekeepers to “play it safe” because:
“It’s not the international standard [to do additional quarantine], but we’d rather play it on the safe side. We’re highly migratory. The UN peacekeepers showed that they and their families can make sacrifices for everybody’s sake,” Health Undersecretary Janette Garin told Rappler on Wednesday, November 12.
2. The other purpose of the quarantine is:
3. The World Health Organization (WHO) did not advise the quarantine:
WHO did not recommend Caballo quarantine
The WHO, in diplomatic language, had earlier expressed its disapproval of the island quarantine for peacekeepers in Liberia. Quarantine is only recommended for people who show symptoms.
(Note: I believe “Isolation” is the right recommendation “for people who show symptoms.”)
4. The peacekeepers already underwent “exit screening” in Liberia:
“Current exit screening of all persons departing affected countries through international airports, seaports and major land crossings is recommended by WHO,” the statement added.
5. In short, the “island” quarantine of the peacekeepers is a COUNTRY-SPECIFIC government policy even Malacañang is aware of or most likely ordered…after expert consultations and careful consideration of the Philippine situation as an “Ebola virus-free” country.
6. Now, this country-specific decision to quarantine the peacekeepers, I believe, must now be governed by the Quarantine Act of 2004.
REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9271
7. However, R.A. No. 9271 or the Quarantine Act of 2004 didn’t envision the Ebola virus.
8. Thus, lacking specific guidelines, the generalities of the Quarantine Act of 2004 must be the governing guidelines in carrying out the peacekeepers’ quarantine:
The Bureau of Quarantine, being the health authority, is mandated to ensure security against the introduction and spread of infectious diseases to include the EMERGING diseases and public health emergencies of international concern. This include a pro-active response to public health concerns on matters pertaining to food safety, sanitation and vector control in airports and seaports of entry on conveyances, people, goods and cargoes.
9. Definition of “quarantine” in the IRR for the Quarantine Act of 2004:
“Quarantine” – means the separation of people who have been exposed to an illness, usually an infection, but are not ill or have not yet shown any sign of the illness. The movements and interaction of these people are restricted during the quarantine period which is equivalent to the incubation period of the disease. Those who get ill during the quarantine period are immediately isolated.
10. The WHO International Health Regulations is suppletory to the IRR of the Quarantine Act of 2004:
SECTION 62. Suppletory Clause
The International Health Regulations (IHR) of the World Health Organization (WHO) shall supplement the provisions of these Implementing Rules and Regulations.
Leading international organizations and associations from the transport, trade and tourism sector stand firmly with WHO against general bans on travel and trade, as well as restrictions that include general quarantine of travellers from Ebola-affected countries.
The Travel and Transport Task Force, established in August 2014, calls for international cooperation of governments and the transport sector in following the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola, convened by WHO.
WHO does not recommend general bans on travel or trade, or general quarantine of travellers arriving from Ebola-affected countries, as measures to contain the outbreak.
12. The Philippine government imposed something that is not recommended by the WHO. It may be a contentious issue but, I may say, it’s against the law. It was quite a strict measure to restrict movements and interactions of people and separate them from their families.
13. Yet those who imposed such a stringent policy did not even submit themselves to the restrictions they themselves imposed when they—not trained Quarantine Medical Officers—freely interacted with the peacekeepers.
This was contrary to the exact purpose of a quarantine as defined by the IRR of the law.
Were they really playing safe for the sake of the general population?
14. The quarantine of the soldiers was meant to set an example for OFWs from Ebola-affected countries to follow suit when they return to the Philippines.
Will the government be able to restrict the travel rights of the OFWs considering they already underwent Exit Screening abroad? If and when it’s their turn, will families of the quarantined OFWs be allowed to visit them—in trickles perhaps—just like what Garin et al did?
15. I observed that:
(1) International Health Regulations on Ebola were not followed by the Philippine government; and
(2) the self-imposed—country-specific—quarantine protocol for the peacekeepers was violated when people other than a trained Quarantine Medical Officer visited and interacted with the men and women in uniform.