PH to lift ban on countries with new COVID-19 variant

Philippine Airlines

THE Philippines’ temporary ban on foreign travelers coming from countries where the new, more infectious COVID-19 variant has been detected will be lifted in February.

The Philippines will not be extending its travel restrictions imposed on 36 countries with cases of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 (UK variant), Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed on Friday, January 29.

“The restriction remains until January 31, 2021 and would lapse after the aforesaid date,” he told CNN Philippines.

The Philippines temporarily banned the entry of foreign travelers coming from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, the United States, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Austria, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, Oman, and Czech Republic.

The country’s Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, for its part, released a new set of guidelines for arriving foreigners starting February.

Arriving foreigners are required to have valid and existing visas at the time of entry, except for those qualified under the Balikbayan program under Republic Act No. 6768 or the Act Instituting the Balikbayan Program.

They must also pre-book hotels for quarantine purposes, as well as undergo a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test on the sixth day of their arrival.

“These foreign nationals should also have pre-booked accommodation for at least seven nights in an accredited quarantine hotel or facility. They shall also be subject to COVID-19 testing at the quarantine hotel or facility on the sixth day from the date of their arrival,” said Roque.

New quarantine classifications

Malacañang on Friday also announced that Metro Manila and Davao City will keep their general community quarantine (GCQ) status for the entire month of February.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, retained the general community quarantine classification of the National Capital Region (NCR) and Davao City,” said Roque.

Aside from these areas, Batangas, Tacloban City, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Iligan City, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) will be under GCQ from February 1 to 28.

The rest of the country will remain under modified GCQ (MGCQ), the least stringent among all quarantine classifications.

The new quarantine classifications were announced amid the threat of the new COVID-19 variant in the country.

To date, there are a total of 17 confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 (UK variant) in the country, of which 12 came from Bontoc, Mountain Province — an area in the Cordillera region.

CAR’s quarantine status also shifted from MGCQ to GCQ due to a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases as well as the region’s bed care and health care capacity reaching “moderate risk.”

Ritchel Mendiola

Ritchel Mendiola is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at ritchel.mendiola@asianjournalinc.com.

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