PH health chief backs stricter border controls after Indian COVID-19 variant detected


Posted at May 12 2021 10:07 AM | Updated as of May 12 2021 10:48 AM

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MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Wednesday said he would recommend stricter border controls after two cases of India's COVID-19 variant were detected in the Philippines.

The Indian variant, named B.1.617, is believed to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus. It was detected in 2 returning Filipino workers from the Middle East.

As these Philippine cases were not direct travelers from India, Duque was asked if he would suggest stricter border controls. 

"I will recommend that certainly," the health secretary told ANC's Headstart.

He added, he would "seek the counsel" of the World Health Organization's representative to the country whether it is necessary to broaden the travel ban to all territories with reported cases of the Indian coronavirus variant.

The government last week announced a ban on arrivals from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka until May 14 to prevent the entry of the COVID-19 variant. It also covered those who had been to these countries within 14 days immediately before arrival to the Philippines.

The infected Filipinos were from Oman and the United Arab Emirates, according to Health Usec. Maria Rosario Vergeire.

Duque said both cases were quarantined and "have completely recovered." He said one case was asymptomatic, while the other showed symptoms a day after arriving in the country.

"It’s impossible that they have exposed others without our authorities not knowing," he said.

He noted that the symptomatic patient did not show "any extraordinary signs and symptoms or serious clinical condition."


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