The Department of Health (DOH) said it recommended imposing a travel restriction on travelers from Hong Kong amid growing concerns over a new coronavirus variant first found in South Africa.
DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III said that they already wrote to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea about their recommendation.
“Yes. Ikinokonsidera na rin iyan. Kaya nga sumulat na kami, nag-rekomenda kami kay Executive Secretary na kung puwedeng maaksyunan ito kaagad para makasiguro tayo na hindi makapasok ito (That is also being considered. That is why we have written, we recommend to the Executive Secretary if we can take action immediately so that we can make sure that it does not enter here),” said Duque in an interview over DZBB radio on Saturday, Nov. 27.
“Kailangan talagang tugunan ito dahil hindi naman ito karaniwang panahon, ito ay Christmas season. So, Kinakailangan talaga na pag-aralan itong maigi (It needs to be addressed because this is not a normal time, it is the Christmas season. So, it is really necessary to study it carefully),” he added.
The Hong Kong government already recorded two cases of the new coronavirus variant called Omicron (B.1.1.529).
Duque said that there is a possibility that this new variant can change the country’s COVID-19 situation once it enters here.
“Posibleng magbago. Kasi titingnan natin kung ito nga ba ay peligroso. So mag-iingat tayo. Ano ba ang tamang pag-iingat? Edi, Kasama riyan ang mas mahigpit na international border controls (It is possible that it will change. We are assessing if it is really dangerous. So let’s be careful. What is the proper precaution? That includes stricter international border controls),” he said.
On Nov. 26, the Philippine government already imposed a temporary suspension of inbound international flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique as a precaution against this new variant.
The DOH assured the public that the government will soon announce whether the travel ban list will be expanded or not.
“May ongoing po na discussion ngayon at asahan ninyo po na magkakaroon ng mga developments within the day or by tomorrow tungkol sa expansion po, possible expansion po noong mga listahan. Pero siyempre nakabase pa rin ito sa makukuha nating datos sa iba’t ibang parte ng mundo na ngayon lumalabas po kung sila po ay mayroon ding mga na-detect (There is an ongoing discussion today and you can expect that there will be developments within the day or by tomorrow regarding possible expansion of the lists. But of course, it is still based on the data we can get in different parts of the world),” said DOH Health Promotion Bureau Director Dr. Beverly Ho in a public briefing.
“So sa atin po, antabayanan lang po natin. Rest assured na habang kayo ay nasa weekend, mayroon pong mga nagtatrabaho behind the scenes sa DOH at sa IATF (Interagency Task Force) para po pag-isipan ito at ipatupad iyong mga bago natin or updated natin na list (So, let us wait. Rest assured that while it’s weekend, there are people working behind the scenes at the DOH and the IATF to think about it and implement our new or updated list),” she added.