Expansion of PH travel ban over new COVID-19 variant to be based solely on official reports- DOH

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2021 08:29 PM

MANILA — The health and foreign affairs departments will make recommendations on expanding the list of countries covered by the Philippines' travel ban over the new COVID-19 variant based on reports confirmed by official channels of foreign governments, the Department of Health said Tuesday. 

“The list of countries included in the travel restrictions shall be regularly updated to include countries who will officially report detection of the variant,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH and Department of Foreign Affairs may make recommendations on which countries should be included in the travel ban, with final approval by the President.

Currently, foreign nationals from 20 countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and the Chinese city of Hong Kong are banned from entering the Philippines to prevent spread of the new COVID-19 variant. 

The health department cited the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Resolution No. 91, which allows the Office of the President to impose restrictions to travelers coming from countries where the new and more transmissible COVID-19 variant has been detected. 

The DOH said recommendations to add more countries to the travel ban would be based on official confirmation through: (1) the official detection of the variant in a country as published in the respective government’s official channels, or (2) official notification of a country to the International Health Regulations (IHR). 

The IHR is a binding instrument of law under the World Health Organization that "defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders," the body says on its website.

“Unofficial reports, including those reported by media outlets do not qualify as official sources and therefore cannot be used as basis in recommending travel restrictions from a specific country,” the DOH said.

The DOH previously said it was having a hard time confirming the presence of the new strain in other countries because of lack of official communication.

The agency said travelers from countries not included in the travel ban list will be “endorsed to the Local Government Units (LGU) upon yielding negative RT-PCR results at the point of entry.”

Even with a negative COVID-19 test, the DOH asked LGUs to ensure that the travelers complete the necessary 14-day quarantine at home or in an isolation facility.

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— report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News