DOH recommends travel ban on 6 more countries with new COVID-19 variant

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2021 02:37 PM

Video courtesy of DOH

MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday said that it has recommended the inclusion of 6 more countries in the Philippines' travel ban on places that have detected the new and more transmissible COVID-19 variant.

“Until January 15, 2021 we are restricting travel from countries with confirmed UK variant. Apart from the 21 countries that have already been announced, the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs have recommended the addition of 6 countries with official reports confirming the detection of this UK variant,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing, referring to the new variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

The DOH has not yet named the 6 countries.

On Tuesday, the DOH said that it would make its recommendations on expanding the travel ban based on official confirmation of foreign governments on the detection of the new variant in their respective countries.

Vergeire also previously shared how the country had difficulty getting official confirmation from other nations. 

Of the dozen more countries that detected the new variant after the Philippines added the United States to its travel ban list, only six had official statements from their governments, Vergeire said Monday.

GENE SEQUENCING

Vergeire said that to “heighten” the country’s “biosurveillance activities,” all passengers from the affected countries who test positive for COVID-19 would have their samples undergo whole genomic sequencing. 

This would allow the Philippines to detect if it already has the new variant. 

As of Wednesday, the Philippine Genome Center has not found the new variant in the 305 samples it had processed for gene sequencing. However, the DOH is still awaiting information on a Hong Kong resident who tested positive for the new variant upon returning from Manila. 

 Before Christmas, the government imposed travel restrictions on the United Kingdom to prevent the spread of the new variant in the Philippines. 

The travel ban list was expanded to include other countries as more announced detecting the new variant. 

Foreign travelers coming from the following are temporarily prohibited from entering the Philippines: United Kingdom, United States, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, and Spain. 

Meanwhile, returning Filipinos from these areas would have to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine even with a negative test.