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Palace urges travelers from South Africa to report to authorities, undergo COVID-19 testing

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Palace urges travelers from South Africa to report to authorities, undergo COVID-19 testing
Travellers queue at a check-in counter at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, 2021, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant Omicron. A flurry of countries around the world have banned ban flights from southern Africa following the discovery of the variant, including the United States, Canada, Australia,Thailand, Brazil and several European countries. The main countries targeted by the shutdown include South Africa, Botswana, eSwatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
AFP / Phill Magakoe

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Wednesday urged the unlocated travelers from South Africa who arrived last month to report to authorities, noting that the giving of false information during a public health emergency is punishable by the law.  

The government is still looking for seven travelers from South Africa who entered the country from November 15 to 29 as a precautionary measure against the Omicron variant. Some of the travelers provided incomplete or incorrect contact numbers while others were unresponsive, according to the health department.

Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles noted that the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act enumerates penalties for anyone who gives false information during a public health emergency.

"First and foremost, I do not want to scare them. Whoever you are, please come immediately and report yourselves, submit yourselves for testing immediately and report yourselves immediately to authorities. We’re not scaring you; we want your cooperation," Nograles told CNN Philippines.

"I will leave it to our law enforcement agencies or our prosecutors to investigate. So it (imposition of punishment) will not be immediate. We will investigate first, we’ll have to ask them also. They’ll have to ask them questions," he added.

Nograles, also the spokesman of the government's pandemic task force, clarified that the filing of cases against those who provided inaccurate information is the "last resort."
 
Among the prohibited acts under the law are non-cooperation of persons and entities that should report or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern; and non-cooperation of persons or entities identified as having the notifiable disease or affected by the health event of public concern.

Any person or entity found to have violated the law shall be penalized with a fine ranging from P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both depending on the decision of the court.

The Professional Regulation Commission has the authority to suspend or revoke the license to practice of any medical professional who violated the law. The Civil Service Commission may also suspend or revoke the civil service eligibility of a public servant who committed any of the violations mentioned in the law.

If the offense is committed by a public or private health facility, institution, agency, corporation, school or any juridical entity, the chief executive officer, president, general manager or officer-in-charge shall be held liable. The business permit and license to operate of the erring facility, institution, agency, corporation, school, or legal entity shall also be canceled.

Nograles said the government is ramping up its vaccination drive to protect Filipinos from Omicron and other COVID-19 variants.

"Because this Omicron variant... will not be the last variant of COVID-19. So we will just have to live with this virus and hopefully we will all be able to defeat it by everybody getting vaccinated and everyone just following the minimum public health standards especially this December, during Christmas time," he said. 

The Philippine government banned inbound flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy from Nov. 28 until Dec. 15 to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant. Filipinos coming from these countries may enter the Philippines but they can only do so through government or non-government-initiated repatriation and bayanihan flights.

COVID-19 VARIANT OMICRON VARIANT
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 19, 2022 - 1:59pm

Follow this page for updates on the new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa. Photo courtesy of the The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

January 19, 2022 - 1:59pm

The Philippines reports the detection of 492 additional cases of the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Of the total, 332 are locals, while 160 are returning overseas Filipinos.

This brings the total number of Omicron cases in the country. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

January 19, 2022 - 8:36am

France's daily reported new coronavirus cases broke a new record on Tuesday with an average of over 300,000 a day in the past week, with the headline figure approaching half a million.

The latest data issued by Public Health France showed that there were 464,769 new cases in the last 24-hour period as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spread unabated.

A day earlier, 102,144 people had tested positive for the virus. — AFP

January 18, 2022 - 11:29am

China's postal service has ordered workers to disinfect international deliveries and urged the public to reduce orders from overseas after authorities claimed mail could be the source of recent coronavirus outbreaks.

China Post on Monday published a statement ordering workers to disinfect the outer packaging of all international mail "as soon as possible" and requiring employees handling foreign letters and packages to receive booster vaccine shots.

The postal service also asked the public to reduce purchases and deliveries from "countries and regions with a high overseas epidemic risk" and said domestic mail should be handled in different areas to prevent cross-contamination. — AFP

January 14, 2022 - 11:45am

Preliminary data from a trial shows AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine increased antibodies against the coronavirus Omicron variant for a booster dose.

The British-Swedish pharmaceutical reports that the response against both Omicron and Delta variants was seen in those who received the booster while initially vaccinated with either the AstraZeneca shot or another mRNA vaccine.

January 11, 2022 - 11:09am

Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the Philippines says Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, citing results of the latest genome sequencing on January 3.

The newest "variant of concern" has surpassed the Delta variant, believed to be behind the second wave of the pandemic in March last year.

Omicron is even more transmissible than the Delta variant.

FULL STORY: Omicron dominant COVID-19 variant in latest genome sequencing — DOH

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