Philippines extends travel ban, steps up safeguards over Covid-19 variant


Passengers wearing hazmat suits for protection against the coronavirus disease walk inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines, on January 14, 2021. - Reuters

MANILA, Jan 15 (Reuters): The Philippines on Friday extended by two weeks a ban on travellers from more than 30 territories and countries where a more transmissible COVID-19 variant has been detected, with the restriction also now covering Filipinos who want to come home.

The Southeast Asian country, which has recorded its first case of a new variant that was first found in Britain, has the second highest number of Covid-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

The flight ban, which has been expanded from the initial 19 countries and territories and was initially imposed for two weeks until Jan. 15, will now be in effect until Jan. 31, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

The prohibition also now covers travellers from China starting Jan. 13, and the United States beginning Jan. 3.

While the British variant was found to be nearly 70% more transmissible than the original one, there is no evidence yet that it is more dangerous.

The flight ban now covers all travellers coming from or transiting through the flagged countries, which also include Japan, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong, France, Germany and Italy, the statement said.

Previously Filipinos from those areas were allowed to come home on condition that they underwent a 14-day quarantine in a government-designated isolation facility.

Roque said exemptions to the entry restrictions may be issued by the government's coronavirus task force. - Reuters
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