It's final: Philippines expands travel ban due to new coronavirus variant

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 29 2020 12:23 PM | Updated as of Dec 29 2020 05:59 PM

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 lies mostly empty on Dec. 23, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE2) — Following inconsistent announcements from officials, the Philippines on Tuesday finalized a wider travel ban to prevent the spread of a new, more contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

President Rodrigo Duterte has prohibited from entering the country from 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 30, 2020 until Jan. 15, 2021 all foreign travelers coming from, or transiting through, the following territories, or who have been to these places 14 days before arrival in the Philippines, said his spokesman Harry Roque. 

  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands
  • Hong Kong, SAR
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Spain

Duterte earlier extended the suspension of flights from, and the prohibition of entry on all travelers coming from or transiting through, the UK until Jan. 15.

But passengers who are already in transit and will arrive before 12:01 a.m. of Dec. 30 from the 19 additional areas "shall not be prohibited from entering the country," said Roque. 

"However, they shall be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR test result," he said. 

Filipinos from these areas and the UK can also enter the country and will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR test result, Roque added. 

Duterte's office "may impose restrictions to travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new variant of COVID-19," saiid Roque.

"Outbound travel to countries with reported new variants shall be subject to the exiting protocols of the Philippines and the entry protocols of the respective countries," he added. 

Malacañang earlier Tuesday said government has not issued a wider travel ban, as announced by the Manila International Airport Authority and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. 

The new COVID-19 variant, which British scientists have called "VUI - 202012/01," has renewed fears about the virus that has killed over 1.7 million people worldwide.

With more than 471,000 infections and 9,162 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

The new variant has not been detected in the Philippines. - With a report from Reuters 

Video courtesy of PTV