MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday approved extending for two more weeks a ban on all flights originating from the United Kingdom, which reported a new COVID-19 strain that has a faster rate of transmission.
The ban was initially imposed from December 24 to 31.
As the new mutation emerged, the Department of Health said it was recommending "a strict mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from countries" with reported cases of the new variant.
The quarantine will be completed at New Clark City in Capas town, Tarlac, "regardless of RT-PCR test results".
Besides the UK, travelers from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, and Japan fall under the required quarantine.
The President also approved the health department's recommendation to restrict travel from countries that have recorded cases of the new COVID-19 variant when transmission at the community level is confirmed, his spokesman Harry Roque said Sunday.
The Health Department said it was closely monitoring countries with documented cases of the new COVID-19 variant.
The government said it would put in place "intensified bio-surveillance" methods, part of which would be genome-sequencing specimens from UK travelers.
This would also include "target sequencing in high-risk groups, like clusters with increased cases and clusters with increased severity and deaths," Roque added.
The Philippine Genome Center, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health will participate in the process.
Based on the advise of medical experts, the DOH said authorities should consider restricting travelers from countries with "confirmed" local community transmission of the new COVID-19 strain.
The DOH added that minimum public health standards must be followed, including regular washing of hands, observing coughing and sneezing etiquette, proper wearing of masks and face shields, social distancing of at last a meter, and making sure air properly circulates.
"The observance of MPHS is key to keeping infection rates low, as the chances of mutation is lower when fewer people get infected," the department said.
"Moreover, it is universally effective for any type of COVID-19 mutation."
The Philippines as of Saturday reported 469,005 cases of COVID-19, with 28,883 active infections.