Palace: Malaysia, Thailand travel bans to be imposed once Delta threat arises

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — The government is avoiding declaring restrictions on travelers from Malaysia and Thailand as much as possible, but assures these will be declared if the Delta variant’s threat in both countries reaches that of gravely-hit Indonesia.

Kapag meron talagang banta na gaya ng nangyari sa Indonesia na 97% na ang prevalence ng Delta variant sa kanila ay magde-deklara na tayo ng travel ban,” said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque when asked what it would take for the government to impose travel bans on the two countries.

[Translation: If there already is a threat similar to what happened in Indonesia where the prevalence of the Delta variant has already reached 97%, we would declare a travel ban.]

The spokesman explained that by the time the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases moved to recommend a travel ban on Indonesia, the highly transmissible variant’s prevalence in the Southeast Asian country already reached that rate.

However, during this time frame, the prevalence of the Delta variant was “only at 34%” in Malaysia, he added.

Hangga’t maaari, dahil mga karatig-bansa natin ‘yan at ‘yan ang pinakamalapit na mga bansa sa atin, ay iniiwasan natin ang travel ban,” explained Roque.

[Translation: As much as possible, since they are our neighboring countries and nearest to us, we are avoiding a travel ban.]

Indonesia is now Asia’s new COVID-19 epicenter as it deals with an overwhelming surge of coronavirus infections, which health experts say is being driven by the Delta variant. 

The Philippines currently has 35 cases of the variant, eight of which are active while three have died. Of the total count, 11 are locally acquired cases.

RELATED: PH can't handle Indonesia-like surge driven by Delta variant – health workers group

In the same briefing, infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante said a local transmission of the Delta variant is already possible in the country.

“I would speculate that based on the cases na na-document ng [documented by the] Philippine Genome Center, there are those cases na hindi [that are not] related doon sa [to the] returning OFWs,” Solante said.

“They are what we call local cases. With that demographic, then I would say mukhang mayroong [there seems to be] local transmission of the Delta variant,” he continued.

However, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier explained a local transmission can only be declared once a linkage has been established among the variant cases, which she said has not happened yet. She noted that the local cases the country has so far detected “are kind of sporadic, where they are in different areas and different timelines for getting infected.”

As fears over new variants rise, Solante stressed all COVID-19 vaccines with emergency use authorization in the Philippines are effective against one or more variants of concern.