The government is capable of keeping Filipinos in China safe amid a surge of COVID-19 cases there, Philippine Ambassador to China Jame Florcruz said Wednesday.
“The government will continue to provide assistance to anyone in need,” he said in Filipino.
To date, there are an estimated 14,000 Filipinos in China, Florcruz said.
Florcruz said the COVID-19 situation in China “seems to be under control.”
Despite this, he advised the Filipino community in China to stay cautious and follow health protocols.
“It’s still spreading to other parts of China, that’s why the people here remain careful. The advice to the public is to continue wearing masks, avoid large crowds, and live with COVID,” Florcruz said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday flew to China for a three-day state visit.
However, the COVID-19 situation in China prevented Mr. Marcos from meeting with the Filipino community there.
While some Filipinos were disappointed, they understood that the reason for not scheduling a meeting was valid, the ambassador said.
Mr. Marcos and the Philippine delegation traveled to China in a “bubble” to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The Department of Health on Wednesday said eight unvaccinated Filipino travelers who recently arrived from China tested positive for COVID-19.
Citing reports from the Bureau of Quarantine, the DOH said the travelers arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Dec. 27, 2022 to Jan. 2, 2023 and tested positive for COVID-19 through antigen screening.
“Based on current protocols, non-fully vaccinated individuals who are unable to present a negative pre-departure test result are tested upon arrival at the airport,” the DOH said.
The antigen results were later confirmed positive through RT-PCR testing on Dec. 31, 2022, the Health department said, adding that the travelers are currently under isolation.
Meanwhile, former Health secretary and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin on Wednesday advised concerned government agencies not to make drastic decisions over plans to reintroduce mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers arriving in the country.
Garin, a deputy majority leader, said “the most that we can request is a PCR test prior to departure.”
“Realistically speaking, we do not have the systems and processes in place, unlike other countries. Even our [system of] vaccination certificates and its corresponding IT system is chaotic,” she said.
Before coming up with a decision on the issue of mandatory testing for travelers from China, Garin said the Philippine government can first seek some clarification with the World Health Organization and the Chinese Embassy on the real situation.
To allay concerns of a new surge as a result of Chinese travelers, Garin said China has a 95 percent vaccination coverage, but the World Health Organization reported in December 2022 that 87 percent of Chinese people are vaccinated with two shots of the local homologous vaccines, Sinopharm and Sinovac-Coronavac, but only 55 percent are boosted. Older Chinese who are more vulnerable to serious illness have been particularly resistant to boosters.
A growing number of countries, including the United States, Canada, Japan and France, have insisted that all travelers from China provide negative COVID tests before arrival.
But the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday criticized these moves as “knee-jerk” reactions.
“It is extremely disappointing to see this knee-jerk reinstatement of measures that have proven ineffective over the last three years,” Willie Walsh, director general of the IATA said.
IATA, which represents 300 airlines accounting for 83 percent of total air traffic, argued that the coronavirus is already circulating widely within the borders of countries imposing the tests.
“Research undertaken around the arrival of the Omicron variant (in late 2021) concluded that putting barriers in the way of travel made no difference to the peak spread of infections,” Walsh said.
“We have the tools to manage COVID-19 without resorting to ineffective measures that cut off international connectivity, damage economies and destroy jobs,” he said.
Global passenger traffic, which was decimated by the emergence of COVID-19 in 2020, is expected to have reached 70.6 percent of its pre-crisis level in 2022 — less than previously forecast as China had maintained strict travel restrictions. With AFP
Chinese authorities have announced that they will stop requiring quarantines for incoming travelers on Jan. 8.
Beijing called the mounting international restrictions on travelers from its territory “unacceptable” on Tuesday and warned that it could take countermeasures “based on the principle of reciprocity.” With AFP