PHILIPPINE authorities on Wednesday signaled plans to add the United States to the list of countries and territories covered by a temporary travel ban in a bid to prevent the entry of a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 first detected in the United Kingdom.
The US was not on the list of 20 places covered by the expanded ban late Tuesday, but on Wednesday morning, health authorities said they were considering putting the US on the list because of another fast-spreading strain reported in Colorado. That additional ban could disrupt the travel plans of Filipino-Americans who usually visit relatives this time of the year.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III on Wednesday said during the Virtual Kapihan of DOH with the mediam “Yes, isasama natin pansamantala [ we will temporarily include the US]. Remember this is not a permanent ban, this is only a temporary ban, to give us time to assess our situation, to check whether this new variant is already here or not.”
Duque said that that is part of the policy – a country that has reported the new variant will be subject to a temporary ban.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) belatedly suspended flights from the UK coming into the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), restricting the arrival of foreigners from 19 countries besides the UK. The aviation body had enforced an absolute 14-day quarantine period for Filipinos, including those already in transit who are coming from countries where the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been reported.
The Caap suspension took effect at 10 a.m. December 30, to last until 12 a.m. January 16, 2021, as contained in a notice-to-airmen (Notam).
The Notam echoes the memorandum issued by the Office of the President on Tuesday (December 29), regarding “additional measures to be observed relative to the SARS-COV-2 variant detected in the United Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, Filipinos coming from Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong SAR, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain are allowed to enter the country but will have to undergo the stricter 14-day facility-based quarantine alongside a mandatory requirement of a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.
Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advised foreign and Filipino travelers to reconsider New Year trips to the Philippines amid the new entry rules.
“The DFA has strongly advised foreign nationals and Filipino citizens intending to come to the Philippines to reconsider their travel plans for a later date,” the agency said on Wednesday, citing Malacañang’s announcement on December 29 of the extension until midnight January 15, 2021 of a temporary entry ban on flights and foreign passengers from the UK and 19 other countries and jurisdictions that have reported incidence of the new coronavirus strain.
From December 30, 2020 to January 15, 2020, all foreign nationals, regardless of previous Philippine visas and exemptions granted, who will be flying from or have been to the following places within 14 days of arrival in the Philippines — Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom – will not be permitted to enter Philippine territory.
Filipino citizens who come from these areas can still enter the Philippines but will be required to complete strictly the 14-day quarantine requirement at a government facility even if RT-PCR tests show negative results.
The DFA encouraged those intending to travel to the Philippines to check with the nearest Philippine embassy or consulate and regularly consult the website and social media sites of the Philippine Bureau of Immigration for the latest information.