PH extends travel ban due to new COVID-19 variants

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) — The Philippine government on Friday extended the travel restrictions imposed on foreign nationals coming from areas confirmed to have cases of the new COVID-19 variants. The travel ban that was supposed to end on Friday will stay until Jan. 31, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

The list includes 33 countries and territory. It was not expanded to include the United Arab Emirates. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday recommended to include the Gulf state in the list after a Filipino returning from UAE was detected with the COVID-19 variant first found in United Kingdom.

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Roque said the possibility of including the UAE to the list will be up to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"The President will be the one to declare that, if ever. The list is for extension of restrictions," he said.

The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant from United Kingdom that is regarded to be more transmissible in the country. The 29-year-old patient found infected with the variant returned to the country on Jan. 7 after a trip to Dubai in the UAE.

Following reports of the emergence of COVID-19 variants in several areas globally, the Philippines suspended all flights from the UK beginning December 24. The ban on foreign travelers now covers 33 jurisdictions after they confirmed the presence of new COVID-19 variants in their areas, namely: United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Austria, China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Oman.

Filipinos coming from these places are allowed to enter the country, but they are required to complete the facility-based 14-day quarantine. The samples of incoming travelers who will test positive in an RT-PCR test will be submitted to the Philippine Genome Center to detect the possible presence of new variants.