PH adds six more countries in travel ban list over COVID-19 variant fears

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 6) — The Philippines is temporarily prohibiting the entry of travelers from six more countries which have confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant discovered in the United Kingdom.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Departments of Health and Foreign Affairs to expand the ban on inbound travel to include Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, and Brazil, Malacañang announced Wednesday.

From January 8 to 15, foreign nationals who have been in any of these countries within 14 days prior to their arrival in the Philippines cannot enter the country.

Filipino and foreign travelers entering the country before January 8 will be welcomed, but they need to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine even if they test negative for the virus.

Meanwhile, unaccompanied minor Filipino citizens in the government's repatriation program can still come home, but will be turned over to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration house parent, in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The government first suspended all flights from the UK beginning December 24, a ban that later included 20 other countries and territories, namely, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. There are no restrictions on outbound travel, but that would depend on the rules of country destinations.

The variant found in the UK, and another one that originated in South Africa are believed to be more contagious, prompting travel bans and widespread concern across the world. Both mutations have not been detected in the Philippines as of Wednesday, but the Philippine Genome Center said genomic surveillance will continue to monitor the presence of any new variant.