Philippines suspends flights from UK over new COVID-19 strain

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Philippines suspends flights from UK over new COVID-19 strain
Customers wearing face covers queue at a TAP Air Portugal check-in desk in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London on December 21, 2020, as a string of countries around the world banned travellers arriving from the UK, due to the rapid spread of a new, more-infectious coronavirus strain.
AFP / Niklas Halle'm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines joined the list of nations that have imposed restrictions on the United Kingdom amid mounting concerns over a new and seemingly more contagious strain of the coronavirus.

Malacañang announced Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a temporary suspension of flights from the UK beginning 12:01 a.m. of December 24 to December 31 as proposed in Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution No. 90.

The travel ban will cover “all passenger who have been in the United Kingdom within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely transiting the same.”

People who are already in transit and will arrive in the Philippines before the start of travel ban are exempted from entry restrictions but they are required to go through more stringent quarantine and testing protocols.

They will undergo 14-day quarantine at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City regardless of their reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test results.

Outbound travel to the United Kingdom is subject to existing exit protocols of the Philippines.

Initial data suggest the new coronavirus strain could be “up to 70% more transmissible,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said over the weekend. The announcement prompted dozens of countries to flights and trains arriving to and from the UK.

The Department of Health earlier said it has not yet detected the new COVID-19 strain in the Philippines.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Tuesday the government needs to act fast to block the new virus variant from reaching the country, noting the country’s failure to impose travel restrictions on China early.

The government banned all travels to and from China and its two administrative regions—Hong Kong and Macau—on February 2. The Philippines confirmed its first coronavirus cases—a tourist from Wuhan, China—on January 30.

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