PH gov’t halts entry from 20 countries
IN an attempt to prevent the new COVID-19 variant from entering the Philippines, the national government imposed travel restrictions from countries where its presence was confirmed.
The travel ban includes countries such as United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain.
Earlier on Wednesday, December 30, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the travel ban already included the United States.
However, the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) said that the presence of the new COVID-19 variant must be confirmed first by the American government and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the U.S. will likely be included in the travel ban after a case of the new variant of COVID-19 was detected in Colorado on Tuesday, December 29.
“It will be included temporarily. Remember, this is not a permanent ban. This is only a temporary ban to give us time to assess our situation and to check if the new variant has already arrived in the country,” Duque noted.
Meanwhile, Philippine Health Undersecretary Rosette Vergeire said the agency will wait for an advisory from the World Health Organization International Health Regulations (WHO-IHR) before it includes the U.S. in the official list.
“We will wait for the US to officially notify the WHO-IHR or official announcement by their government regarding this new strain identified in Colorado before we include it in our official list,” she said.
In a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday banned the entrance of all foreign passengers coming from the aforementioned countries.
Those who are already in transit and will arrive before December 30, including returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), will be allowed to enter. However, they are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine period regardless of their negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result.
Duterte also approved the extension of the temporary suspension of flights from, and the prohibition of entry on all travelers coming from or transiting through, the United Kingdom until Jan. 15, 2021.
Filipino citizens coming from the aforementioned countries are exempted from the travel ban, but are required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine despite a negative RT-PCR test result.
The order will take effect until January 15, 2021.
The Philippine Department of Tourism, for its part, welcomed the travel ban announcement.
“We value above all else the health and safety of our people. In this light, we ask for the understanding and cooperation of inbound travelers in adhering to the measures put in place to ensure the protection of both guests and local communities,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) urged travelers to postpone their trips to the Philippines.
“The DFA has strongly advised foreign nationals and Filipino citizens intending to come to the Philippines to reconsider their travel plans for a later date,” it said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the UK detected a new COVID-19 variant called VUI-202012/01, which is believed to be more transmissible than other known variants.
Countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Japan, and France later announced that they have confirmed cases of the new COVID-19 variant.