NEWSFLASH! Manila expands travel ban to cover Thailand, Malaysia amid Delta variant threat

PASSENGERS being checked for COVID-19

MANILA – Travelers from Thailand and Malaysia will be prohibited from entering the Philippines beginning July 25, Malacañang announced amid the threat posed by the more transmissible Delta variant.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte approved the travel restrictions for all travelers coming from Malaysia and Thailand or those with travel history to Malaysia and Thailand within the last 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

The travel ban imposed on passengers from Thailand and Malaysia will be in effect from July 25 to 31, Roque said.

He said travelers already in transit from the two countries within 14 days immediately preceding their arrival and those who arrive before July 25 may still be allowed to enter the country.

However, they are required to undergo a full 14-day facility quarantine even after getting a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) result.

“This action is undertaken to prevent the further spread and community transmission of Covid-19 variants in the Philippines,” Roque said.

Nations already included in the travel ban are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

To prevent the entry of new coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) variants, the government is requiring international travelers in all Philippine ports of entry to observe strict testing and quarantine protocols, Malacañang said on Friday.

“All incoming international travelers in all ports of entry must strictly comply with testing and quarantine protocols approved by the IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). This is to further prevent the introduction of variants of concern to the country,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press statement.

Roque, who concurrently serves as IATF-EID spokesperson, said infection prevention and control protocols must be strictly followed in all quarantine and isolation facilities.

The Bureau of Quarantine, Roque said, must also identify and monitor the close contacts of coronavirus-infected travelers in the plane or vessel.

“Also, local government units (LGUs) handover must include clear transportation arrangements and quarantine accommodation,” he said.

He said LGUs must also monitor the travelers who are undergoing quarantine.

The immediate reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test must be done, once passengers exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, Roque said.

“In addition, health assessment must be done for all arrivals at the end of isolation or quarantine period,” he said, amid the threat of a more transmissible Delta variant.

Meantime, the IATF-EID is allowing foreign spouses, parents, and children of Filipino citizens with valid 9(a) visas to enter the Philippines without an entry exemption document beginning August 1, 2021, Roque said.

Roque said the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) strategy should likewise be “continuous and strengthened.”

This means there should be active case finding, intensified contact tracing, immediate quarantine in a facility, declaration of localized enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) down to the zone or village levels, stricter implementation and observance of minimum public health standards, and fast-tracked deployment of Covid-19 vaccines, Roque said.

Filipinos who are part of repatriation efforts or special commercial flights are not covered by the travel restrictions, he said.

“But they have to follow the prescribed testing and quarantine protocols,” he added.

The Philippines on Thursday logged 12 new local cases of the Delta Covid-19 variant, bringing the total case count of the more infectious coronavirus to 47.

Across the Asia-Pacific region, including Southeast Asia, the Delta variant is driving new outbreaks.

Malaysia and Thailand are seeing surges in their cases due to the Delta variant, reporting more than 13,000 cases each as of July 22.

The Delta coronavirus variant, which was first detected in India, is found to be 60 percent more infectious than the Alpha variant and is believed to be behind the surge in cases in other countries.

Medical experts have noted that a person who contracts the Delta variant can infect five to eight people.

On Monday, Duterte sought stricter health measures in preparation for the possible local transmission of the “more aggressive and fatal” Covid-19 Delta variant in the country.