Gov't must extend travel ban on countries with cases of new COVID-19 variant — OCTA

January 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The government must extend the country’s travel restrictions on nations with reported cases of the new and more transmissible coronavirus variant for at least two weeks, a research group said Wednesday.

The Philippines imposed travel bans on foreign travelers coming from 33 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and China. The restrictions will last only until Friday, January 15.

“We recommend to extend it… The new variant may have already reached the country, maybe not. If it has, it’s possible there may not be many cases of the new variant because we might have controlled its entry,” Guido David, OCTA Research Team fellow, said in Filipino in an interview on Teleradyo.

“But if we open our borders while we don’t know if it has reached the country yet, there might be a spike if we’re not careful,” he added.

Malacañang is still mulling over whether it will extend or lift the travel restrictions.

The Department of Health said the new variant, which experts say is more contagious than the others, has not been detected so far in the Philippines and urged the public to refrain from sharing unverified information on social media.

The agency also said it is keeping an eye on the variant detected in South Africa and in nearby Malaysia.

David urged the national government to further ensure that effective and stricter border controls are in place to mitigate COVID-19 transmissions in the country’s airports and ports.

“They must also enforce strict monitoring and quarantine,” he added.

Officials and experts stressed the public should not let their guard down as the new variant could lead to spike in cases and overwhelm the country’s healthcare system. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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