PH mulls travel ban on countries with high passenger traffic from India

Published May 3, 2021, 2:37 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

More government precautions are being planned to avert the spread of the deadly coronavirus surge in India to the Philippines.

The government is studying whether or not to expand the travel ban to other countries with high passenger traffic from India in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, according to a Palace official.

(Courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS / MANILA BULLETIN

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the World Health Organization has recommended the larger travel restrictions in light of the coronavirus surge in India. He admitted that the matter will be studied since the government cannot simply prohibit travelers from the Middle East where many overseas Filipinos are working.

India is currently facing the world’s most devastating coronavirus wave after recording more than 200,000 deaths. Cases of infections in India have soared to more than 390,000 over the weekend following the detection of the reported double mutant strain, that pushed the total cases to 19.5 million.

“We can never say if what happened to India will not happen kaya nga tayo nag-travel ban ngayon (that’s why we imposed a travel ban at present). Pero ang warning ng WHO kinakailangan isama rin sa travel yung mga lugar kung saan mataas ang traffic involving passengers from India. Kasama diyan ang Middle East (But WHO warned that the travel ban must include places with high traffic involving passengers from India, including the Middle East),” he said during a televised press briefing Monday, May 3.

“‘Yan ang problema ngayon dahil hindi naman natin puwede i-ban ang mga biyahero galing sa Middle East lalong-lalo na dahil ang dami nating OFWs doon pero pinag-aaralan ngayon ‘yan (That’s the problem now because we just cannot ban travelers from Middle East especially since we have many OFWs there. So that is now being studied),” he added.

The government has prohibited travelers coming from India entering the Philippines from April 29 to May 14, 2021 as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak. The travel restrictions cover even Filipinos coming from India.

Apart from entry ban on travelers from India, Roque said the government would continue to boost the country’s health care capacity to provide care and treatment to coronavirus patients.

When asked about efforts to prevent a repeat of India’s coronavirus crisis in the country, he said improving healthcare system was part of the government’s “long-term plan” since it is “cheaper to invest in health infrastructure rather than to close the economy.”

The country has been battling a resurgence of coronavirus infections in recent weeks after cases surpassed one million. The government moved to impose stricter quarantine restrictions while augmenting hospital beds to address the rising cases.

As of May 2, the country has reported 8,346 new cases, bringing the total number to 1,054,983. More than 17,000 people died from the illness in the country.