Travelers from China and four other countries are not allowed to enter the Philippines starting Jan. 13 as a precautionary measure against the entry of a new coronavirus variant, Malacanang said Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said under the new restrictions, all foreign travelers coming directly from or who have visited China in the last 14 days are not permitted to enter the Philippines.
Filipino nationals and permanent residents traveling from or through China, Hong Kong, or Macau within 14 days of arrival will be subject to quarantine.
Aside from China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Oman have also been included in the temporary travel ban, Roque said.
The travel restrictions list now covers over 30 countries or jurisdictions.
PAL to comply with restrictions
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines announced on Tuesday it will comply with the latest travel restriction as the government came up with the additional list of countries affected by the new variant of COVID-19.
The airline said in an advisory that foreign passengers from China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Oman are now covered by travel restrictions "for inbound travel to the Philippines, effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 13 up to Jan. 15, 2021."
The latest inclusion brings to 33 the total number of countries covered by travel restrictions to the Philippines. Those countries have cases of infections from the new variant of the deadly disease.
“Philippine Airlines will thus be unable to accept, on our flights to the Philippines, foreign passengers who originate from the above countries or who have travelled to any of these countries 14days prior to their scheduled arrival in Manila," PAL said.
Metro Manila surge seen
The OCTA Research Team on Tuesday warned the government about the possibility of a "significant surge" in COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) in the next few weeks following increased social gatherings during the holidays.
In their latest report, OCTA also said the likelihood that the new coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom may already be in the Philippines and "super-spreader" events such as the Feast of the Black Nazarene may contribute to the surge.
They urged the government to increase testing, scale up contact tracing, boost the capacity of the health care system to prepare for potential outbreaks, expedite the procurement of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and efficiently roll out an immunization program. – Willie Casas
Red Cross favors saliva test
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has proposed to the Department of Health (DOH) and Food and Drug Authority (FDA) the adoption of the saliva testing method as the most affordable way to determine the presence of COVID-19.
“We are expanding our testing services with a more affordable testing which is faster and less invasive. Our proposal is based on sound studies conducted and approved in other countries. These results as well as findings on tests conducted locally by PRC were presented to the DOH and the FDA,” PRC chairman and CEO Senator Richard Gordon said.
The test requires a saliva specimen, which eliminates the discomfort of swabbing.
1,524 new cases reported
The Philippines logged on Tuesday 1,524 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing the total to 491,258, as six laboratories failed to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH reported.
The DOH reported that 44 patients recently recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 458,172, which is 93.3 percent of the total cases.
The DOH also reported 139 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 9,554, which is 1.94 percent of the total.
This left 23,532 active cases, which is 4.8 percent of the total cases. Of the active cases, 85.1 percent are mild; 5.5 percent are asymptomatic; 5.7 percent are critical; 3.2 percent are severe; and 0.54 percent are moderate.
DOH denies report on virus variant
The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday denied that the UK variant of COVID-19 was detected in Metro Manila recently.
“This is to clarify circulating reports on social media that the new SARS-COV-2 variant was detected in Metro Manila,” said the DOH in a statement.
“The Department of Health and the Philippine Genome Center, to date, have not detected the UK variant, or any new variant of SARS-COV-2 in any of the positive samples tested. The DOH and PGC are closely working together in order to intensify on-going bio surveillance efforts,” they said.
“The department also calls on the public to refrain from disseminating unverified information which only serve to create panic and confusion,” the statement said.
Deal with spike ahead of vaccines, govt urged
Senator Imee Marcos said the government must first deal with the imminent spike in Covid-19 cases that could reach 4,000 cases per day, as health experts have warned.
“Mass vaccination is still months away and EUAs (emergency use approvals) are still pending," she said.
But the first order of battle, she said, should be to prevent a runaway infection rate due to forthcoming fiestas and reduced hospital capacities amid staffing changes taking place in January.
After the Feast of the Black Nazarene last Saturday, she noted that the observance of social distancing will be tested further by more crowd-drawing fiestas in coming days.
These are the Ati-Atihan in Aklan, the Dinagyang in Iloilo, and the Sinulog in Cebu, as well as the Panagbenga in Baguio come February.