VACCINES AT LAST. Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc (right) witnesses the arrival of 2,446 doses of Sinovac at the capitol on Friday (March 5, 2021) night. The province’s vaccination rollout started Saturday at the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center, Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr. Memorial Hospital, and Laoag City General Hospital. (Photo courtesy of Ilocos Norte Facebook)

LAOAG CITY – Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc released on Friday night the general guidelines for returning residents, with mandatory quarantine no longer required as long as there are no symptoms.

A proof of acceptance from the destination and a negative Covid-19 test result must still be shown at checkpoints by returning overseas Filipinos and locally stranded individuals or authorized persons outside residence coming from areas under enhanced or general community quarantine.

Loosening of border and quarantine protocols is a "risky decision" but he has to find balance with the ongoing situation, Manotoc said in an online address.

Residents and netizens have been criticizing the local government for not immediately conforming with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases guidelines on uniform protocols for local government units.

After more than a year of dealing with the unseen enemy, netizens posted that they are already "sick and tired” and expect the easing of protocols as approved by the national government.

“If you’re a resident of Laoag, why should you ask for acceptance to go home to your own residence,” one netizen posted on the province’s Facebook page.

Manotoc apologized for the delay in the release of guidelines as the Provincial Health Task Force wanted to assure the safety of residents.

“I’m sorry for our lapses in terms of handling the Covid-19 situation. I know we’ve been very strict and I know it’s very difficult to many,” he said.

“I will continue to be a consultative leader. Nobody will be forced to quarantine but I strongly urged our returning overseas Filipinos and those who come from high-risk areas to minimize their movement for at least one week once they return home.”

To date, Ilocos Norte’s Covid-19 active cases are down to 16, with 760 recoveries and four deaths.

The governor also directed the immediate release of all quarantined individuals once they test negative for the virus.

Quarantine facility head Dr. Rina Corpuz also reiterated on Friday that quarantine is still the best defense to beat Covid-19.

“The test is only helpful on the day you got tested. Quarantine is still the best to protect our loved ones, with or without testing. So, I hope that we limit our movement to essentials only,” she said. (PNA)