DOH not inclined to recommend travel restrictions on countries with South African coronavirus variant

Published February 10, 2021, 4:42 PM

by Analou de Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) said that it is not keen on recommending a travel ban on countries that have already detected cases of the South African variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

(ALI VICOY / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Sa ngayon, hindi pa po natin nakikita ang pagrerestrict sa kahit anong bansa na may variant dahil kakalift palang po natin (Right now, we do not see the need to restrict any country that detected the variant because we just had lifted the last previous one),” said DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a media forum on Wednesday, Feb. 10. 

“We cannot remain on lockdown or restricted forever and isolated ang Pilipinas,” she said. 

On Feb. 1, the Philippine government lifted the travel restrictions on 36 countries found to have logged cases of United Kingdom (UK) coronavirus variant.

Vergeire said that it would be irrational to impose such restrictions because the South African variant has already spread to  other countries. 

“Pag sinabi nating South African variant, alam natin na hindi nalang sa South Africa makikita iyan, nakarating na rin po sa ibang lugar iyan. (When we say South African variant, we know that it is no longer confined in South Africa alone. It also reached other countries),” she said. 

“So parang nakita ng ating gobyerno na hindi na po rational para ipagpatuloy pa ang restrictions ng borders natin sa ngayon (The government sees no need to continue the imposition of border restrictions right now),” she added. 

To prevent the entry of this variant, Vergeire said that protocols for quarantine, isolation, and testing must be strictly implemented.

“We would just like to have that safeguard that we can strongly observe the protocols of our local and national government,” she said. 

Among the countries that have already detected the South African variant include Switzerland, Finland, France Australia, The Netherlands, Israel, Germany, and Austria. 

UK variant update

Vergeire said that the number of confirmed cases of the United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 virus remains at 25.

She assured the public that the contact tracing efforts are still being conducted. 

The Health official said that they also sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in order to locate the whereabouts of the resident of Liloan, Cebu, who tested positive for the UK variant of the COVID-19 virus. 

“We have already sought the help of the NBI so we can trace this individual, on whether he has already left the country or not,” said Vergeire. 

Vergeire added that the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) continues to conduct genome sequencing to detect more cases of  the UK variant and to determine if other variants of COVID-19 virus are already present in the country. 

“Most of our specimens that were submitted to the PGC for this week will be coming from  Regions 7 (Central Visayas), 4A (Calabarzon), CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), and NCR (National Capital Region),” she said.  

 
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