Govt expands ‘red list’ countries amid Omicron variant threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 28) — The Inter-Agency Task Force has banned inbound travellers from seven more countries amid the threat of the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.

In addition to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique, the government included in the “red list” Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy effective Nov. 28 until Dec. 15.

Only Filipinos returning to the country via repatriation flights may be allowed entry, subject to prevailing protocols for “red list” countries, the IATF added.

The government clarified that travelers already in transit and those who have been to the red list countries within 14 days before 12:01 a.m. of November 30 shall not be subject to this entry restriction. But they shall be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days with testing on the 7th day.

The IATF also directed the Bureau of Quarantine and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to locate passengers who arrived within 14 days before November 29 from red-listed countries. The said passengers must complete a 14-day home quarantine and undergo an RT-PCR test if symptoms develop.

On the other hand, although the Omicron variant was already detected in Hong Kong, the government said travellers from the administrative region should follow protocols for “yellow list” countries.

Fully vaccinated travelers from yellow-listed countries must present a negative RT-PCR test result done within 72 hours prior to departure from their country of origin.

They will then undergo facility-based quarantine until the release of a negative test result done on the third day. After getting discharged, they are likewise enjoined to self-monitor up to the 14th day of their arrival.

Moreover, the government also temporarily suspended the entry of fully-vaccinated nationals of non-visa countries under the “green list.”

The World Health Organization said the Omicron variant, which was first detected in South Africa, "has a large number of mutations" that can have an impact on how the virus behaves.

The country is currently experiencing a decline in daily COVID-19 cases. There were only 839 new COVID-19 cases recorded on Sunday, the lowest daily tally in 11 months.