Senators seek temporary ban on European tourists in PH over new COVID-19 strain

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 22 2020 01:03 PM

Senators seek temporary ban on European tourists in PH over new COVID-19 strain 1
Residents walk along a street with a sign warning them against the rising number of COVID-19 cases in London on December 21, 2020. Reuters

MANILA - Several senators on Tuesday urged the executive branch to "quickly and temporarily ban" travelers from Europe after reports of a new COVID-19 strain in the United Kingdom surfaced earlier this month.

The Department of Health (DOH) "should act decisively and not procrastinate," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told reporters in a text message.

"Recall that in February, DOH did not immediately ban travels from China, which directly caused the deadly local transmission of COVID-19," he said, in reference to the onset of the pandemic in the country, where tourists from Wuhan were the first confirmed cases. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto shared the same opinion saying that the safety of Filipinos should come first.

"We must do everything to ensure the safety and protection of our people," Recto said.

Sen. Joel Villanueva agreed with the suggestion to issue a temporary travel ban on European tourists, noting that other European Union members have already closed their borders.

"We should act quickly and temporarily ban travelers from Europe... to ensure the new strain doesn’t spread here," he said.

"Delikado talaga. Nasa huli pagsisisi, " he said.

(It's really dangerous. We will just regret in the end.)

Earlier this year, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there was no need to deny entry to visitors from mainland China despite the threat of the highly-contagious disease.

Duque instead recommended a ban on tourists from China's Hubei province.

The delay in the travel ban on Chinese tourists allowed the entry of a woman from Wuhan, where COVID-19 originated. The tourist was eventually tagged as the Philippines' first COVID-19 case.

The World Health Organization (WHO) earlier allayed fears about the new COVID-19 strain that emerged in the United Kingdom, saying this was a normal part of a pandemic's evolution.

Despite the WHO's assurance, at least 20 countries have enforced travel bans and tightened border control policies to stop the new COVID-19 strain from spreading.

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