MANILA — The Philippines starting this weekend will include Malaysia and Thailand in its travel ban to arrest the spread of more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, Malacañang said on Friday.
Travelers from the 2 countries will be barred from entering the Philippines "beginning 12:01AM of July 25, 2021 until 11:59PM of July 31, 2021", said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
The restriction will cover "those with travel history to Malaysia and Thailand within the last fourteen (14) days preceding arrival in the Philippines," he said in a statement.
Passengers already in transit from the Malaysia and Thailand who arrive before 12:01AM of July 25, 2021 "may still be allowed to enter the country but will be required to undergo a full 14 day facility quarantine, notwithstanding a negative Reverse Transcription - Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) result," Roque said.
"These travel restrictions, however, are subject to the same exceptions on repatriation and special commercial flights for Filipinos, but they have to follow the prescribed testing and quarantine protocols," said the Palace official.
The travel ban exempts Filipinos who are part of repatriation efforts or special commercial flights, he added.
The Philippines previously suspended the entry of travelers from 8 countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Indonesia—which have all detected the highly transmissible COVID-19 Delta variant.
Video courtesy of PTV
The Department of Health on Thursday reported 12 new local cases of the Delta variant, which first emerged in India, bringing the Philippines' total cases of the strain to 47.
"Clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission," the DOH said in a statement.
For context, the term "local transmission" is used if there is evidence that a local case has already transmitted the virus to another local case, Health Epidemiology Bureau Dir. Alethea De Guzman earlier said.
With more than 1.5 million cases and some 26,800 deaths, the Philippines has the second-highest number of infections and deaths in Southeast Asia, and the detection of the Delta variant could slow the country's return to normalcy.
The Philippines has so far fully immunized about 5.9 million out of its 58 to 70 million target population, Malacañang said on Thursday.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters