Philippines expands travel ban to limit spread of coronavirus variant

Manila: The Philippines will ban travellers from 19 countries and territories until mid-January as a measure to keep out a new variant of the coronavirus, its transport ministry said on Tuesday.

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The regulation will be in effect from midnight of Dec. 29 to Jan. 15 and covers Filipinos and foreigners arriving from the “flagged countries”, the transport ministry told reporters in a group text message.

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The Philippines previously imposed and later extended a flight ban from Britain until mid-January as the more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus was first detected in England.

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The new variant, which British scientists have called “VUI – 202012/01,” has renewed fears about the virus that has killed over 1.7 million people worldwide.

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The flagged countries include France, Australia, Canada, Germany, South Africa, Singapore and Japan.

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With more than 470,000 infections and 9,124 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.

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The new variant has not been detected in the Philippines.

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Philippine health officials said the travel ban could be expanded to include more countries should those report the presence of the new COVID-19 variant.

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