Duque says US, other countries with new virus strain, to be included in temporary travel ban

3 weeks ago
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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III discusses the Department of Health’s year-end report for 2020 in a press briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (Screenshot of DOH video/Courtesy DOH)

(Eagle News) – The Department of Health said that the United States as well as other countries which recently reported the presence of the more infectious COVID-19 strain will be included in the temporary travel ban as part of the precautionary measure against the new SARS-CoV-2 variant.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said as a matter of policy, the US should be included in the travel ban where foreign travelers coming from countries confirmed to have the presence of the highly infectious variant B.1.1.7 would be prevented from entering the country.  Foreign travelers transiting through these countries are included in the ban that took effect Dec. 30 and would last until Jan. 15 2021.

Duque said that the inclusion of US in the temporary 14-day travel ban is to give enough time for the Philippines to assess the current situation in the country, particularly to determine if the variant B.1.1.7 is already here.

“The policy is yes, isasama natin pansamantala. Remember this is not a permanent ban. This is only a temporary ban to give us time to assess our situation, and to check whether this new variant has already arrived in the Philippines or not yet,” Duque said in his report about the performance of his department for the year 2020.

-Genome sequencing ongoing to check COVID strains in PHL-

He said that the Philippine Genome Center, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the University of the Philippines Manila are currently studying the genome sequences of the COVID virus present in the country.

This is to determine if the highly infectious variant B.1.1.7 is already here in the country.
Duque stressed that this is the standing policy, to include countries which would report the presence of the infectious variant in the travel ban.

“Yes it’s the policy, any country which reported the new UK variant will be subject to the temporary ban,” he said.
The Philippines has recently expanded its travel ban not just for the UK, but for other countries with the reported UK variant.

Aside from the UK, there are the countries covered by this temporary travel ban:
1. Denmark
2. Ireland
3. Japan
4. Australia
5. Israel
6. The Netherlands
7. Hong Kong, SAR
8. Switzerland
9. France
10. Germany
11. Iceland
12. Italy
13. Lebanon
14. Singapore
15. Sweden
16. South Korea
17. South Africa
18. Canada
19. Spain

Duque said that this list is expanding as the government will add other countries which will report the presence of the new virus strain.

More recently, the US confirmed the presence of the infectious new virus strain in Colorado. Chile also confirmed that it had detected the virus variant from one of its citizens who had returned to the country from Madrid. She had also traveled to Britain and Dubai. Chile is the first Latin American country to report the presence of the new infectious COVID virus strain.

Earlier, Malacanang said that the decision to include the US in the temporary travel ban shall be based upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH), which sits as Chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

(Eagle News Service)

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