Senator Christopher “Bong” Go said that existing health protocols and travel restrictions due to the pandemic may be further strengthened as Malaysia has identified a new COVID-19 strain from samples in neighboring Sabah state.
“Baka lalo pa nating paigtingin, istriktuhan pa ang entry, lalo na’t ngayon lang ito lumabas ‘yung sa Sabah (We may need to strengthen [travel restrictions], make the entry stricter, especially with this new development from Sabah),” Go said during a radio interview on Saturday, Dec. 26.
Go mentioned that Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan has already consulted with the IATF on how best to handle the emerging situation due to the proximity of Sulu province to Sabah.
“Ngayon ay nananawagan si Governor Tan sa IATF na tulungan sila sa anong gagawin matapos mabalitaan na may new strain sa Sabah, dahil 29 hours via boat lang po ang Sulu at marami ang pumapasok d’yan sa likod (Governor Tan is asking for assistance from the IATF when they found out about the new strain from Sabah, because it is 29 hours away via boat from Sulu and there are many who enter via that route),” explained Go.
Meanwhile, pursuant to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 90, Go explained that even transiting passengers from the UK are subjected to travel restrictions and stringent quarantine protocols.
“Pursuant to the IATF reso, the President decided to impose a travel ban from UK including Filipinos. [This applies] to travellers who visited UK or [are] merely passing through UK,” said Go.
Go also said that the country should better prepare for the emergence of new COVID-19 strains given that it is a new disease.
“Habang may napapabalitang new strain, panibagong pag-aaral na naman ng health experts, ‘di lang dito sa ating bansa (With this new strain, new studies would be done by healty experts not only in our country),” Go said. “We have to be prepared to counter this.”
Earlier, Go confirmed that President Duterte is cutting short his Christmas break in Davao City to meet with concerned government officials to discuss measures to address the new COVID-19 strain.
The new strain has caused a surge of new infections in the UK, prompting countries to shut their borders to the UK. Meanwhile, countries like Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands have already reported their first cases of the new strain.
The Philippines, on the other hand, has already imposed a temporary travel ban of flights from the UK since Dec. 24 until the end of the year. However, outgoing flights are still allowed, following current exit protocols.
Go has also urged the public to strictly abide by necessary health protocols as they celebrate the holidays.