Palace: Pinoys from US can enter PH but must follow health rules
MANILA, Philippines — Travelers from the United States, except Filipino citizens, are prohibited from entering the country from Jan. 3 to Jan. 15 following reports from US health authorities that the new coronavirus variant has been found in Colorado, Florida and California, Malacañang said on Friday.
The Palace made official the inclusion of the United States in the list of 20 countries covered by a temporary travel ban for having confirmed infections caused by the new variant.
Also on Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 1,765 new COVID-19 cases in the country on the first day of 2021, bringing the national tally to 475,820.
The DOH said 26,677 of the total cases were in quarantine or receiving treatment, with 81.9 percent considered mild, 9.8 percent showing no symptoms, 2.7 percent listed as severe and 5.1 percent in critical condition. There were also 106 new recoveries, the DOH said, bringing the total to 439,895.
The death toll, however, rose to 9,248 with the addition of four more deaths.
The Philippines has yet to report a case of the new coronavirus variant that was discovered in Kent, England, last month and later spread to other European countries. It emerged in Singapore on Dec. 23.
Initial studies have suggested that it is 70 percent more transmissible than the earlier, more widespread form of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
In response to the discovery of the new variant, the government earlier restricted the entry of travelers from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada and Spain.
In the United States, where there are currently around 2 million Filipinos, a case of the new variant was reported in Colorado on Dec. 29, followed by more cases in California and Florida.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday said Filipino citizens coming from the United States would be allowed to enter the country but subject to varying periods of quarantine.
Whether Filipino or foreigner, travelers arriving before Jan. 3 will be required to undergo a facility-based 14-day quarantine even if the results of their reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test prove negative.
Travelers merely transiting through any the countries with confirmed cases of the new variant will not be considered to have come from these places, as long as they can prove that they stayed in the airport the whole time and had not been cleared for entry by immigration officials in those countries.
Concerns in E. Visayas
Roque stressed that Filipinos would not be prevented from entering the country but they have to comply with quarantine requirements.
While the number of cases in the country has been improving the past weeks, health authorities expect a surge in infections due to increased social gatherings, and religious and commercial activities during the holiday season.
In Eastern Visayas, Dr. Exuperia Sabalberino, officer in charge of the DOH regional office, said the World Health Organization had placed the region under the “high risk category.”
COVID-19 has claimed 131 lives in the region as of Jan. 1.
“People are going out. If we continue to behave this way, we will overwhelm our health system. Our time now is very critical,” Sabalberino said in a media interview. “We appeal to our people to really follow all the health protocols. The solution to contain the further spread of the virus lies in each of us. Prevention starts with you.”
Over the last 14 days, Eastern Visayas has logged 1,356 cases, making it the fifth region in the country to have the highest number of new cases during the period.
On Friday, the region reported 104 new cases, bringing its total number to 11,396. Two more patients died, bringing the regional death toll to 129.
As of Thursday, at least 811 health workers across the region have been infected with the virus. At least 125 villages in the region have been identified by the DOH as coronavirus “hot spot areas.”
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