The government’s task force on pandemic response has included the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hungary in the list of countries with travel restrictions in a bid to prevent the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Malacanang said on Friday night.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said the imposition of the travel ban on the UAE and Hungary will take effect starting 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 17 until Jan. 31.
He said foreign travelers from these two countries arriving before Jan. 17 can come to the Philippines but are required to undergo a strict facility-based 14-day quarantine even if they have a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result.
“Filipino and foreign passengers merely transiting through these two countries shall be covered by the rules, as provided in the Memorandum from the Executive Secretary dated Dec. 31, 2020,” Mr. Roque said in a Viber message to reporters.
Also on Friday, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) extended the travel restrictions on foreign travellers coming from 33 countries confirmed to have cases of the new COVID-19 variants until Jan. 31.
Included in the ban are the United Kingdom, the United States, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Austria, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Oman.
Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, and Lebanon are also covered by the temporary travel ban.
Mr. Roque said contact tracing protocols shall be strengthened “by expanding to third-generation contacts for known new variant cases,” adding that all identified close contacts are required to undergo a strict facility-based 14-day quarantine, while remaining contacts from the flight shall be advised of the appropriate quarantine protocols.
He said the Department of Transportation has been directed to strictly implement issuances against airlines that allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the Philippines.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also been mandated to issue the necessary advisories to local government units for the preparation, strengthening, and maintenance of their quarantine facilities and contact tracing efforts to avoid a possible surge of COVID-19 cases, he added. “The DILG is also directed to ensure the proper enforcement of the StaySafe.ph system used by LGUs for ease of contact tracing.”
The IATF already approved the continuation of weekly genomic biosurveillance activities of the Department of Health, the Philippine Genome Center, and the UP National Institutes of Health among incoming passengers and local cases, “prioritizing hospitalized patients, re-infected patients, and those in clusters,” Mr. Roque said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza