MANILA—The Philippines will continue suspending the entry of travelers from 10 countries until the end of August to arrest the spread of the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant, Malacañang said on Friday.
President Rodrigo Duterte approved the extension until Aug. 31 of the travel ban that was initially set to end Sunday, said his spokesman Harry Roque.
The restriction covers India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
The travel ban exempts Filipinos who are part of repatriation efforts or special commercial flights, Malacañang earlier said.
With more than 1.7 million coronavirus cases and some 29,500 deaths, the Philippines has the second-worst COVID-19 outbreak in Southeast Asia.
The Philippines has so far reported 627 cases of the Delta variant, first detected in India, but health experts say there could be more undetected cases because of the slow pace of the country's genome sequencing capacity.
At least 12 million out of the Philippines 109-million population have been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus. The government is aiming to immunize up to 70 million people before the year ends to safely reopen the economy.
The inter-agency task force on COVID-19 approved the request of airlines to resume international transit hub operations, said Roque.
"These international transit hub operations shall be limited to airside transfers between Terminals 1 and 2, and within Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and further limited for countries/jurisdictions/territories in the Green List," he said in a statement.
Fully vaccinated travelers from "green" territories could enjoy shorter quarantine upon arriving in the Philippines.
"As such, protocols for the controlled movement of passengers and health and safety protocols within the terminals shall be strictly observed," Roque said.
"Any traveler who may exhibit symptoms shall comply with isolation and quarantine protocols which shall be for the account of the sponsoring airlines."
The IATF directed the Department of Foreign Affairs and the quarantine and immigration bureaus to come up with the necessary protocols for the issuance of appropriate visas "on a case-to-case basis," he said.