Philippines: ‘Stricter’ border controls sought for passengers from Middle East

Highlights

  • Move comes as two passengers from the Gulf were detected with B.1.617, also known as G/452.V3, or the 'Indian variant'.
  • New arrival rules for OFWs, Filipino and non-Filipino nationals imposed from May 8, 2021.
  • Travellers arriving in the Philippines now mandated to undergo 14 days of quarantine (instead of just 6 days).

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Stricter border control measures were sought for passengers coming from the Middle East as the Philippines recorded two cases of the B.1.617 “variant” of coronavirus, the country’s top health official said on Wednesday (May 12, 2021).

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Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said his agency will recommend the fresh travel curbs. “I will recommend that, certainly. But I am in touch with our WHO (World Health Organisation) country representative in the same manner that we have expanded our travel ban beyond India… Rest assured I will make that recommendation,” he told the ABS-CBN network.

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It was not immediately clear what specific restrictions will be recommended or adopted, thought it is likely to cover both overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, non-OFW ‘Balikayans’, as well as non-Filipino nationals. A 14-day mandatory quarantine has been imposed since May 8, 2021 for inbound passengers.

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On Tuesday, the DOH announced that the B.1.617 variant of coronavirus was detected on two Filipinos who flew back in from the Middle East.

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Currently, the Philippine government imposed a travel ban to inbound passengers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

###Lineage B.1.617###

The said variant was first detected in India in October last year. The health official said that the B.1.617 coronavirus variant has already been detected in 42 countries at present.

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Aside from this variant, the local health authorities earlier detected the presence of other coronavirus variants such as the B.1.1.7 first detected in the United Kingdom, B.1.351 which was first detected in South Africa, P.1 that was first found in Brazil, and the P.3, which was first found in the Philippines.

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Cause of concern

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The Health chief said that every variant detected in the Philippines is a “cause for concern.” “These will now help us make the necessary adjustments in terms of our five strategic pandemic response pillars: massive prevention campaign, early detection, doing active case finding, contact tracing, aggressive isolation and quarantine, and treating patients,” he added.

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“There is not enough data to say for sure, except for increased transmissibility, I think that’s pretty much given. But in terms of virulence or the gravity of the infection, there’s not much data as of now. The response will always be intensified compliance with minimum public health standards,” he said.

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The Philippines continues to learn from the coronavirus situation in India, which was hit by what Indian media dubbed as “COVID tsunami.”

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“It might be too presumptuous of me to say that it will not happen to us. We have to be really extra careful knowing what is happening in India…This is really something that all countries must learn from,” he said.

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The Philippines has seen a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases. JHU data show 4,721 new cases on May 11, 2021, off from the April 15 peak of 11,405.

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“We are quite optimistic about the downward trend and, hopefully, we can sustain this. This cannot be done without everyone’s cooperation, everybody has a role to play here—both at the individual and community level,” he added.

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Non-OFWs and non-Filipino nationals arrival rules (as of May 8, 2021)

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Travellers arriving in the Philippines starting May 8, 2021 and onwards shall undergo 14 days of quarantine, 10 of which shall be observed at an accredited hotel or facility, and the remaining 4 to be completed at home under the monitoring of their respective Local Government Units. Travellers shall also undergo an RT-PCR test on the seventh day of their quarantine stay.

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OFWs arrival rules (as of May 8, 2021)

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Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) arriving in the Philippines starting May 8, 2021 and onwards shall undergo 14 days of quarantine, 10 of which shall be observed at an accredited hotel or facility, and the remaining 4 to be completed at home under the monitoring of their respective Local Government Units. Passengers shall also undergo an RT-PCR test on the seventh day of their quarantine stay.

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The hotel must be accredited by the Philippine Tourism and Health Agencies while waiting for scheduled test and the release of results. Travellers can only check out from the hotel on the Day 10 of quarantine stay. Day 1 starts on arrival date.

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