Govt keeps guard up against new COVID strain in PH entry points

Philippine News Agency photo of an airport terminal in the Philippines.

QUEZON CITY, Dec. 31 (PIA) -- The government today assured the public that it is keeping its guard up against the entry of the new COVID-19 variant as it also guaranteed swift and efficient handling of returning overseas Filipinos.

This, after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday, Dec. 30, began the implementation of entry restrictions approved by Malacañang against travelers from countries with the new variant of the dreaded coronavirus disease.

The DOTr, through the Civil Aviation Board (CAB), issued an advisory restricting the entry of travelers, except Filipino citizens, from 20 countries based on a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Tuesday.

“The Palace-approved additional measures include the extension of the temporary suspension of flights, and the prohibition of entry of all travelers coming from or transiting through the United Kingdom until 15 January 2021, except for Filipino citizens,” the DOTr said.

Travelers, both in air and maritime transport, coming from or transiting through the 19 other countries with reported cases of the new COVID-19 variant, or those who have been to these countries within 14 days of arrival in the Philippines, are prohibited from entering the country at exactly one-minute past midnight on Wednesday.

The policy, also effective until Jan. 15, 2021, applies to travelers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Travelers from these 20 countries who were already in transit and arrived in the Philippines before Wednesday midnight—including those who have been to these countries within 14 days of their arrival in the Philippines — are not prohibited from entering the country but are required to undergo an “absolute facility-based” 14-day quarantine even with a negative RT-PCR test result.

The same also applies to Filipinos coming from these countries to help ensure that the new COVID-19 variant does not spread in the Philippines.

“Seafarers who fall under this classification are only allowed to disembark in the Port of Manila, and shall be transported by their shipping agents to the designated quarantine facility via Point-to-Point (P2P) under strict monitoring of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG),” the DOTr said.

Filipino seafarers will undergo their mandatory quarantine at facilities assigned by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City at the expense of the government.

Meanwhile, foreign seafarers shall be quarantined in Department of Tourism (DOT)-assigned facilities for 14 days.

Based on the joint recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Office of the President may impose similar restrictions on travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new COVID-19 variant.

Meanwhile, outbound travel to countries with the new COVID-19 variant remains subject to existing exit protocols of the Philippines and the entry protocols of the destination country.

To help ensure detection and develop the country’s defenses against the new COVID-19 variant, all laboratories that process travelers from these 20 infected countries are directed to submit their specimens to the Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health for genome sequencing.

“The RITM is also directed to develop a Standard Operating Procedure/Response Protocol for reports of new variants and strains of SARS-CoV-2,” the DOTr said.

To ensure the completion of the 14-day quarantine of travelers from countries with the new strain, the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and the OWWA were directed to ensure strict adherence to quarantine and testing protocols and provide a line list to local government units (LGU).

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was also directed to ensure that all other inbound international travelers — even those not covered by the restriction —strictly finish a 14-day quarantine based on existing quarantine protocols of the national government such as home quarantine. (PIA NCR)

Source: Philippines Information Agency (

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