PH travel ban expands to 19 countries over new Covid-19 strain

By Azer Parrocha

December 29, 2020, 6:44 pm

<p>Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (File photo)

MANILA – The Philippines on Tuesday banned “all foreign travelers” from the United Kingdom (UK) and 19 other countries and areas from entering the country following reports of a new strain of coronavirus found in the UK.

In a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the extension of the temporary suspension of flights from, and the prohibition of entry on all travelers coming from or transiting through, the UK until Jan. 15, 2021.

The memo also stated that effective 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 30, 2020 until Jan. 15, 2021, all foreign passengers coming from 19 more countries will be banned from entering the Philippines. These are:

The Netherlands
Hong Kong, SAR
South Korea
South Africa

Passengers who are already in transit and arrive before 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 30, 2020 from the said countries or areas listed will not be prohibited from entering the country.

However, they will be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period, despite a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result.

Filipino citizens who are coming from or who have been to the same countries or areas within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines will be allowed to enter the Philippines on the condition that they undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine despite a negative RT-PCR test result.

Under the memo, the Office of the President, upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), may impose restrictions to travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Covid-19.

Outbound travel to countries with reported new variants will be subject to the existing protocols of the Philippines and the entry protocols of the respective countries.

Specimen collection

Meanwhile, the memo directed laboratories at points of entry to submit the specimens of travelers from countries with reported cases of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant to the Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM); and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health.

It also directed the RITM to develop a standard operating procedure or response protocol for reports of new variants and strains of Covid-19.

The Bureau of Quarantine and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration were also directed to ensure strict adherence to quarantine and testing protocols for returning Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and provide a line list to the local government units to ensure that the 14-day quarantine is completed and monitored.

The DOH Covid-19 Surveillance and Quick Action Team must also be provided a copy for their case profile and trend analysis.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was directed to ensure that all other inbound international travelers from countries not mentioned above strictly finish their 14-day quarantine following the existing quarantine protocols, which allow home quarantine after getting a negative RT-PCR test result at the point of entry.

In a Palace press briefing earlier in the day, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases "highly recommended" to the President the expansion of a travel ban on countries with cases of the new Covid-19 strain. (PNA)