Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan urged the government Sunday to immediately impose a travel ban on countries that were monitored to have the coronavirus variant instead of waiting for a local transmission to occur before doing so.
Pangilinan recalled that the Philippines was still free from COVID-19 last January but did not impose any travel ban on travelers from Wuhan, China where the COVID-19 originated.
“Bakit kailangang hintaying kumalat ang bagong strain ng virus bago kumilos? (Why do we have to wait before the variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads?)” Pangilinan said, reacting to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s pronouncement.
“Makakaaasa lang tayo ng magiging mas mabuti at mas malusog ang ating 2021 kung malinaw ang pag-iisip at pagsasalita ng mga namumuno sa pagsugpo ng COVID sa ating bansa (We can only expect our 2021 to be safe and healthy if those who lead our nation’s anti-COVID efforts are clearly thinking and articulating their policies well),” the senator stressed.
The government had earlier suspended flights from the United Kingdom (UK) where the first case of the new variant was discovered from Dec. 24 to 31 and extended the travel ban to two more weeks.
Pangilinan said the government should have learned their lesson from COVID-19, which has already spread in some parts of the country before the government decided to impose a travel ban.
He added the government should take decisive action to prevent the variant from entering the Philippines, where the number of cases is now nearing 500,000.
“It’s time authorities take action because all it takes is for the new variant to spread from one person getting on a plane and landing at NAIA,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Department of Health (DoH) should inform the public about the new strain without causing fear or panic.
“An informed citizenry is an empowered citizenry. The people should be given clear, accurate, and timely messages about the virus so they would know how to better protect themselves.”