COVID-19: US Adds Philippines, Other Nations to No Travel List

Marielle Lucenio and Basilio Sepe
Manila
2021-04-21
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COVID-19: US Adds Philippines, Other Nations to No Travel List Volunteer nurses inoculate patients with the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine inside a sports stadium in Marikina City, east of Manila, April 5, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The United States has added the Philippines and other countries in the region to its “do not travel” list, citing “very high” levels of coronavirus infections, officials said.

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday downgraded its travel advisories for the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh and other countries to Level 4, advising American citizens against traveling to those countries “due to COVID-19.”

There was “a very high level of COVID-19” in the Philippines, Malaysia and Bangladesh, the department said, citing Level 4 travel health advisories for those countries issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All three countries have been hit hard lately with waves of infections from the virus. Level 4 is the CDC’s gravest health alert.

On Monday, the State Department announced it was planning to issue “do not travel” alerts for 80 percent of countries worldwide, saying “the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose unprecedented risks to travelers.”   

“Do not travel to the Philippines due to COVID-19. Additionally, exercise increased caution due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest, and kidnapping,” Tuesday’s advisory said.

Many Filipinos have dual U.S.-Philippine citizenship.

In the Philippines, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases reached 962,307 on Wednesday – the second highest number of cases in East Asia behind neighboring Indonesia, where 1.6 million cases have been detected since the pandemic began early last year.

The number of cases has been rising with few signs that the infections will slow. Most of Metropolitan Manila and four adjacent provinces have been on lockdown since early April, with restrictions placed on travelling and gatherings.

Local hospitals have been struggling to cope with the new wave of infections, with many turning away patients. As of Wednesday, the health department said that its vaccination program was continuing but it had only administered 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine.

The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate about 70 million of its more than 100 million population by this year to ensure herd immunity, but that likely won’t happen, experts say.

“Because of the current situation in the Philippines even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to the Philippines,” the CDC said.

“If you must travel to the Philippines, get fully vaccinated before travel. All travelers should wear a mask, stay 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash their hands,” the agency advised.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Japanese government announced that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had postponed a scheduled trip later this month to India and the Philippines because he decided to stay home to deal with a new outbreak of coronavirus cases in his country.

“In order to take all possible coronavirus countermeasures, it has been decided [that] Prime Minister Suga won’t take any overseas trips during the Golden Week.,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters, referring to a series of Japanese holidays starting in late April.

During Suga’s visit the Philippines and Japan were expected to mark the 65th anniversary of normalized bilateral ties.

President Rodrigo Duterte understood Suga’s decision to stay home because beating the pandemic was a priority shared by countries, the spokesman for the Philippine leader said Wednesday.

“Defeating the COVID-19 pandemic is high on both the Philippines and Japan’s agenda and remains a key point of cooperation. The decision to postpone a planned official visit based on this ground, therefore, deserves support,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.

Despite the postponed visit, ties between Manila and Tokyo will remain strong, he said.

“The strategic partnership and broad cooperation between the Philippines and Japan will continue to strengthen even as we jointly and individually work to address the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines.

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