The Philippines has extended the travel ban on countries with confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant, or the United Kingdom (UK) variant, until the end of January, Malacañang announced yesterday.
To curb the spread of the new variant in the country, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the recommendation to extend the temporary travel restrictions until January 31, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Travelers from the UK, 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, and Oman, are prohibited from going to the Philippines.
Studies found that the UK variant is nearly 70 percent more transmissible than the original Covid-19 variant. However, there is no evidence yet that it is deadlier than the previous variant.
The government’s fresh directive came after the new variant was detected in a 29-year-old Filipino male, who arrived home from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 7.
Travelers from the UAE and Hungary are also temporarily barred from entering the Philippines to halt the spread of the more infectious variant.
The imposition of a travel ban on the two countries will take effect starting 12:01 a.m. on January 17 until January 31.
Roque said the IATF-EID had already directed the Department of Transportation to strictly implement issuances against airlines that allow the boarding of passengers, who are prohibited from entering the Philippines, pursuant to the travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and the IATF.
The travel ban was supposed to expire yesterday.
Filipinos from areas covered by the travel restrictions were initially allowed to come home, on condition that they undergo “absolute” facility-based 14-day quarantine, notwithstanding a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result.
However, the IATF-EID Resolution issued on Thursday states that the temporary travel ban is applicable to “all travelers coming from or transiting” through the banned countries.
Roque said the exemptions to the entry restrictions may be issued by the IATF-EID technical working group, in coordination with concerned government agencies. “The IATF, in coordination with other agencies, may issue implementing guidelines on the exemptions to these entry restrictions,” he said.*PNA