COVID-19: Philippines Joins Other Nations in Banning Visitors from UK

Basilio Sepe and Richel V. Umel
Manila and Iligan, Philippines
2020-12-23
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COVID-19: Philippines Joins Other Nations in Banning Visitors from UK A general view shows airliners parked at gates at Heathrow Airport near London, Oct. 11, 2016.
Reuters

The Philippines announced Wednesday that it would join other Asian nations in temporarily banning foreign travelers arriving from the United Kingdom after a new strain of the coronavirus disease, believed to be more infectious, was detected in the British Isles.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia have also announced temporary bans on travelers coming from Britain as a measure to contain the further spread of COVID-19 within their borders.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to impose a ban on visitors and commercial flights from the U.K., officials said. The ban will take effect on Christmas Eve and last at least through New Year’s Eve, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said, citing a resolution approved by an inter-agency task force for managing emergent infectious diseases.

“Consequently, effective December 24, all passengers who have been to the United Kingdom in the last 14 days are temporarily restricted from entering the Philippines,” Morente said in a statement.

“We are constrained to implement this to ensure that our healthcare system is given ample time to respond to this latest development on the pandemic,” Morente added.

He also appealed to airlines and shipping agents “not to board aliens who have been to the U.K. recently.”

The travel restrictions also cover passengers transiting from Britain, he said.

“I have instructed a strict implementation of our 100 percent passport inspection to ensure that we can detect anyone who has been to the U.K. in the last 14 days,” Morente said.

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A policeman patrols near a bus terminal to enforce social distancing among a queue of commuters as quarantine protocols ease in Metro Manila, Aug. 19, 2020. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

On Wednesday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte, the day before, had approved the recommendation of his advisers that all flights from Britain to the Philippines would be suspended by Dec. 24.

All passengers who were in the U.K. two weeks immediately before arrival would not be allowed to enter the Philippines, Roque said.

However, passengers who were already in transit and who arrive here before 12:01 a.m. Friday would be allowed in but required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols, officials said. That includes Philippine citizens.

These protocols include the observation of an absolute 14-day quarantine period at a government facility “notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR [Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction] test result,” Roque said.

The Philippines declared the travel ban following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of stricter restrictions after a more aggressive strain of COVID-19 was found on British soil. The strain could possibly be 70 percent more contagious than the previous known COVID-19 strain, reports said.

With at least  464,004 coronavirus cases detected in the country as of Wednesday, the Philippines ranks second behind neighbor Indonesia in the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 across East Asia, according to data compiled by disease experts at Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Twenty-seven new deaths were reported by the Philippine health department, bringing to 9,048 the total number of deaths here. It also detected 1,196 new infections.

Manila and other parts of the country have been in various stages of a pandemic-related lockdown since March.

While a study conducted by the Philippine Genome Center suggested that the new strain had not been detected in the country yet, there was no room for complacency – especially during the Christmas season in the predominantly Catholic country – Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

“Given the anticipated surge this holiday season, we cannot afford another factor or variable that may affect the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2,” Duque told an online forum, using another term for COVID-19.

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

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