NTF retracts remarks on Hong Kong flight ban

The National Task Force (NTF) Against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on Sunday, Nov. 28, withdrew its comment about the government’s temporary suspension of inbound flights from Hong Kong due to the new Omicron (B1.1.529) variant.


“The NTF wishes to clarify that the inclusion of Hong Kong flights as part of inbound international flights temporarily suspended due to the emergence of the Omicron variant is not yet final,” it said in a statement.

This, after NTF spokesperson Restituto Padilla mistakenly said in a radio interview that Hong Kong was supposedly included in the list of countries which have been banned from entering the country due to Omicron.

According to NTF, they will await the formal announcement from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) on the decision whether or not the government will also include Hong Kong in the suspension.

“The government, through favorable recommendations from the Department of Health (DOH), will work to ensure timely adoption of pre-emptive measures to prevent or delay the entry of new variants which have potential for undermining public health,” the NTF said.

The task force also apologized for the confusion caused by the erroneous remarks.

“Until a formal announcement from the IATF is made, HK flights will still be allowed,” the NTF clarified. As of Sunday noon, the government has yet to suspend incoming flights from Hong Kong.

The government earlier banned flights from South Africa and Botswana as well as its neighbors Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique over concerns on the new variant.

The detection of the Omicron variant in South Africa earlier this week sparked global concerns and forced several countries to shut its border to prevent its entry.

Scientists feared that Omicron could possibly be more contagious than the Delta variant, which sent the country’s healthcare system on the brink of collapse earlier this year due to an outbreak of cases.