The Philippines has imposed a ban on all travelers from India amid the deadly resurgence of the COVID-19 in the South Asian country, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.
Also prohibited from entering the country are those who have traveled to India over the last 14 days. The ban will begin on April 29 and will last until May 14.
The restriction will cover Filipinos, Roque added in a video message.
The ban exempts passengers already in transit from India or with recent travel history to the country, who arrive in the Philippines "before 0001H (12:01 a.m.) of April 29, 2021," said Roque.
However, they are required to quarantine for 14 days at a facility "notwithstanding a negative Reverse Transcription -Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) result," he said.
"Restrictions as to travelers coming from other countries that report the new strain may be imposed by the Office of the President upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs," said the spokesman.
The Department of Foreign Affairs had recommended a travel ban to and from India, where two Filipinos died this week from COVID-19 as a surge in infections overwhelmed the country’s health care system, Philippine Ambassador to New Delhi Ramon Bagatsing Jr. said Tuesday.
In a televised briefing, Bagatsing said India hosts about 2,000 Filipinos, 80 percent of whom are housewives. Fewer than 70 are workers at the managerial level, he added.
“About 20” of them caught COVID-19 and were in isolation. The Philippine embassy tries to deliver supplies to them,” he said.
“Unfortunately, these last 48 hours, we received news that two of our managerial level people passed away,” Bagatsing said in a mix of English and Filipino. “It’s really bad here.”
He said they were doing all they could to bring home the remains.
Flights between India and the Philippines connect through the United Arab Emirates. But the Middle East has suspended the transit of travelers from India, he said.
India has ordered its armed forces to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis, as nations including Britain, Germany and the United States pledged urgent medical aid to try to contain an emergency overwhelming the country's hospitals.
On Monday, India reported more than 352,000 new COVID-19 cases, a global record for the rise in daily cases for the fifth straight day, eclipsing even the United States at the height of its pandemic last year.
More than 2,800 deaths were recorded over the last 24 hours, an all-time high. Crowded hospitals are running out of oxygen supplies and beds.
The DFA recommended to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases that the Philippines impose a temporary ban on travelers from India.
“I have suggested to the IATF that a travel ban be imposed on all our good friends in the entire Indian subcontinent,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Twitter.
“It’s not personal; it’s for everyone’s safety for now; we’ll be able to be together again,” Locsin added.
Reports said the surge in India was largely driven by a new coronavirus variant described as a “double mutant” due to its mutations.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) said it was “doubling its efforts” to address the COVID-19 pandemic after the total number of cases exceeded the 1-million mark, agency spokesperson and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday.
“Whatever we have been doing in the past, we are intensifying,” Vergeire said.
The DOH is improving localized response, expanding the country's health system, ramping up the testing capacity, and improving the isolation facilities, she said.
On Monday, the Philippines' COVID-19 tally crossed 1 million after the DOH recorded 8,929 new infections. The country now has a total of 1,006,428 infections.
The DOH said the new infections brought the total active cases in the country to 74,623 -- 95.4 percent of which were mild, 1.4 percent were asymptomatic, 1.3 percent were severe, and 1 percent were critical cases.
Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries climbed to 914,952 after 11,333 more patients defeated the illness. The death toll, on the other hand, rose to 16,853 with 70 new fatalities.
Vergeire appealed to individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to quickly isolate themselves to avoid further transmission.
Though the reproduction rate in the National Capital Region has gone down since stricter quarantine protocols were reimposed in late March, the daily attack rate remains high, Vergeire said.
“We can see that what we've been doing has been effective so far but still not enough to really bring down the number of cases, so it must be continued,” she said.
"Nobody should be complacent at this point," Vergeire said.
In other developments:
* The One Hospital Command Center said they need to hire up to 50 call-takers and coordinators to help refer patients to hospitals as they are being swamped with calls due to the dramatic surge of COVID-19 infections. The country's referral system for health care providers and medical transportation has been receiving an average of 300 to 350 calls per day, plus the requests received on the One Hospital social media page. Dr. Bernadette Velasco, operations manager of the referral center, said those applying to be call-takers and coordinators must be college graduates of good moral character. Having a medical background would be an advantage, she said.
* Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda on Tuesday filed a bill that intends to address rising hospital bills due the increased demand from COVID-19. “Biosimilars are basically drugs that are made of the same chemicals and have the same effects as branded expensive drugs. They usually enter the market at a discount, which offers patients and the health care system the potential for savings,” Salceda said.
* The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday welcomed the DOH move to develop home care kits for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. In a radio interview, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said this initiative will greatly help the government's efforts to de-clog hospitals and isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients.
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