The Philippines has decided to expand its ban on foreign travelers from 19 countries and territories starting Wednesday until mid-January to prevent the entry of a new coronavirus strain.
The expansion on the travel restrictions, approved by President Duterte, would take effect on December 30, 2020 12:01 a.m. until January 15, 2021, according to Presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
A memorandum on the additional measures against the new COVID strain has been issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to concerned government agencies.
“All foreign travelers coming from, or transiting through, the countries/jurisdictions listed hereunder or who have been to the same with 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines shall likewise be prohibited from entering the country effective 0001H of 30 December 2020, until 15 January 2021,” the memo read.
The latest travel restriction covers the following areas:
6. The Netherlands
7. Hong Kong
16. South Korea
17. South Africa
The government has already extended a travel ban on flights coming from the United Kingdom until January 15 as a precaution against the entry of the more contagious new COVID strain in the country. Travelers from the UK also prohibited from entering the country “except as modified with respect to Filipino citizens,” according to the Palace memo.
The UK travel ban was originally imposed by the Philippine government from Dec. 24 to 31 but has been extended by the President for two more weeks. The new COVID strain, which first emerged in the UK, has reportedly bee detected in several other countries.
Under the same Palace memo, Filipinos coming from these flagged countries shall be allowed to enter the country. They will also be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days regardless of a negative test result.
Passengers who are already in transit and arrive before Dec. 30 from the areas mentioned shall also not be barred from entering the country. These passengers however must undergo “an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR test result.”
The Palace said the Office of the President, upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs, may impose restrictions to travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new variant of COVID-19.
Those planning to travel to countries with reported new COVID variants would be subject to the exiting protocols of the Philippines and the entry protocols of the respective countries.
The Palace also directed laboratories at points of entry to submit the specimens of travelers from countries with reported cases of the new variant of COVID-19 to the Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM); and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health.
The RITM has also been ordered to develop a Standard Operating Procedure / Response Protocol for reports of new variants and strains of COVID-19.
The Palace also directed Bureau of Quarantine and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to ensure the strict adherence to quarantine and testing protocols for returning Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers. A list must be given 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 likewise be provided a copy for their case profile and trend analysis,” the memo read.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government has also been assigned to make sure 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.