Philippines extends travel ban over new coronavirus variant

Philippines extends travel ban over new coronavirus variant
This Dec. 24, 2020 photo shows passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
The STAR / KJ Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 11:42 a.m.) — The Philippine government extended the ban on foreign travelers coming from 32 countries over the new and more infectious coronavirus variant, Malacañang announced Friday.

The ban, which includes the United Kingdom, China, including Hong Kong, and the United States, will be in effect until January 31.

Here is a full list of countries where the travel ban is imposed:

  • United Kingdom
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Netherlands
  • China, including Hong Kong
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • United States
  • Portugal
  • India
  • Finlang
  • Norway
  • Jordan
  • Brazil
  • Austria
  • Pakistan
  • Jamaica
  • Luxembourg
  • Oman

The announcement comes two days after local health authorities reported the country's first case of the new coronavirus variant, B.1.17. SARS-CoV-2, in a Filipino man who came from the United Arab Emirates.

While health officials recommended Thursday the inclusion of the Gulf state in the travel restrictions, the UAE is still not included in the list of countries where the ban is imposed.

While foreign travelers coming from the countries included in the restrictions, Filipinos coming from there would still be allowed to enter the Philippines, but they would have to quarantine for two weeks regardless of their COVID-19 test result.

International tourists from countries not on the list would also have to finish a 14-day quarantine after a negative RT-PCR test result at point of entry.

Imposing travel restrictions had been a significant issue in the country over the course of the pandemic, which has seen over 494,000 infections and over 9,700 deaths.

The government faced criticism around this time last year when Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and President Rodrigo Duterte nixed calls for an early travel ban on foreigners from China, where COVID-19 was first reported, wary that it would look like they were singling out Beijing.

By end-January of 2020, officials reported the Philippines' first confirmed coronavirus infection: a Chinese tourist from Wuhan, the ground zero of the virus, who traveled to various parts of the country before seeking help.

It was also only a day later that Duterte ordered a travel ban to the Hubei province which includes Wuhan, when the virus already reached the country's shores. — Xave Gregorio with a report from Christian Deiparine

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