PH includes UAE, Hungary in travel ban due to new COVID-19 variant

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 15) — The Philippine government has moved to temporarily ban foreign travelers from the United Arab Emirates and Hungary starting Sunday due to the threat of the new COVID-19 variant, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Friday.

In an advisory, Roque said the travel ban will be from 12:01 a.m. of January 17 to January 31.

Travelers from these countries who will arrive before Sunday are allowed to enter the Philippines, but they have to complete the 14-day facility-based quarantine even if their RT-PCR test results are negative.

Filipino citizens coming from these two countries can still enter the Philippines even after January 17, but the government noted they have to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period regardless of their swab test result.

"All unaccompanied minor Filipino citizens coming from countries/jurisdictions where travel restrictions are in place on account of the new variants of COVID-19, shall not be allowed boarding by the airlines until January 31, 2021, except minors returning through the repatriation program of the national government," the statement read, noting they would be turned over to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Two days ago, the Department of Health said the first case of the new COVID-19 variant in the Philippines was detected from a Filipino who returned home from the UAE.

The UAE already reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant in December, but it is only now that the Philippines has decided to close its borders from the said state.

This variant is believed to be more contagious and is linked to the recent spike of infections in the UK.

Existing ban covering over 30 countries has been extended until January 31, the government earlier announced.