PH maintains policy on restricting foreign travelers amid Omicron variant concerns

Published November 30, 2021, 1:56 PM

by Betheena Unite

The Philippines will stick with its rule in allowing foreign travelers into the country amid the emergence of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

(Jansen Romero/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Sought for reaction on whether or not the country will enforce a Japan-like restriction on foreign visitors, Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the government will only continue screening countries that must be put in its red list.

“Right now ang ginagawa natin ‘pag may nakita tayong isang bansa o ilang bansa na nagkakaroon na po ng local transmission ng Omicron ay agad natin ini-elevate sa red list (Right no, when we monitor a country or some countries with reported local transmission of Omicron, we immediately put them under the red list),” Nograles said during a televised briefing Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Japan on Monday, Nov. 29, suspended the entry of all foreign travelers around the world due to the new variant.

The Philippines, on the other hand, is not implementing such measure but it has now 14 countries under the red list, which means that inbound travel of all persons from the red list territories will not be allowed.

Countries under the red list include South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy.

READ: 14 countries now in PH’s red list until Dec. 15 due to COVID-19 Omicron variant

Nograles explained that under the country’s policy, countries that have local transmission of the new variant or other variants are placed under the red list while countries that have confirmed cases of Omicron but are not due to local transmission are put under the yellow list, which requires inbound travelers to undergo testing and quarantine protocols.

“‘Yung aming policy sa IATf (interagency task force) ay wag natin agad agad i-elevate sa red list hanggat makikita natin na maganda naman ang surveillance capacity, capability ng bansang yun, kung maganda ang ginagawa nilang genome sequencing. Pero pag alanganin natin at hindi mataas ang ating kumpyansa na makapag-detect sila ng local transmission ng Omicron nasa IATF ang discretion na i-elevate siya sa red list (Our policy in the IATF is, we do not elevate a country to the red list immediately if it has a good surveillance capacity, capability, and genome sequencing. But if we are not confident on the country’s ability to detect local transmission of Omicron, we leave it to the IATF’s discretion to elevate it to the red list),” Nograles said.

The country has yet to detect any case of the new variant, however, the Department of Health said Monday, Nov. 29, that is now in a state where it is expecting Omicron to enter the country anytime.

READ: DOH ramps up preparations; says Omicron variant will ‘most likely’ enter PH