MANILA, Nov 28 (dpa): The Philippines will reopen its borders to some foreign tourists starting December 1, but immediately had banned on Friday arrivals from South Africa and seven neighbouring countries due to a new variant of the coronavirus.
After nearly two years since closing borders due to the pandemic, the Philippines will allow the entry of fully vaccinated tourists from countries and territories with low numbers of Covid-19 cases and high vaccination rates from December 1 to 15, presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said.
"This is something that we are doing step by step,” he told a press briefing. "We will be monitoring and we will make proper adjustments.”
"If we see that the implementation is good, then we will extend the dates,” he added.
The tourists must come from 44 "green list” countries and be among 157 nationalities who do not require a visa to travel to the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration said.
"They should come from any of the 44 green list countries before entering the Philippines,” said Dana Sandoval, spokeswoman for the bureau.
But the national inter-agency task force on Covid-19 announced hours later that travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique are not allowed to enter the Philippines immediately until December 15.
South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe were on the government’s green list of countries, which is effective until November 30.
"The Bureau of Quarantine, in close coordination with our local government units, has been directed to locate travellers from the above mentioned countries who may have arrived in the recent seven days prior to the temporary suspension of inbound travel,” Nograles said.
"These travellers shall be required to undergo full 14-day facility-based quarantine with RT-PCR test on the seventh day or upon location of the passenger,” he added.
The new variant of the coronavirus, for now known only as B.1.1.529, was also reported to have been detected in Hong Kong, but entry of travellers from there has not been suspended. It is included in the green list of countries.
The Bureau of Immigration was on standby for any changes to travel restrictions that may be implemented due to the new variant, Sandoval said.
"There is always a risk because more people are travelling, but we have implemented strict protocols to minimize the risk while travellers pass through the immigration area," she added.
South Korea and the United States, which are top tourism markets for the Philippines, are not included in the current green list. There are also no European countries in the latest list.
The Philippines has been closed to foreign tourists since March 2020, when the government closed borders and imposed a lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The government has been easing restrictions since last month as the number of daily cases falls to between 1,000 and 2,500, while more people get vaccinated.
The Philippines’ Covid-19 caseload totalled more than 2.83 million on Friday, with 48,017 deaths. More than 34.9 million, or over 31 per cent of the country’s total population have been fully vaccinated. - dpa