Philippines includes China, 4 other countries in travel ban list

Marje Pelayo   •   January 12, 2021   •   382

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang announced Tuesday (January 12) that the Philippine government is expanding its travel ban to include China and four other countries amid threats of a new coronavirus (COVID-19) variant.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that apart from China, travelers from Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman are also not allowed to enter the country starting Wednesday (January 13) to Friday (January 15).

The expansion of travel restriction is part of the country’s measures to prevent the entry of new variants of coronavirus that were initially reported affecting residents in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

With five additional nations on the list, the Philippines so far has banned flights to and from 33 countries.

READ: PH expands entry restrictions, bans travelers from the US effective Jan. 3

However, the government clarified that Filipinos coming from the said countries may be allowed entry subject to a 14-day absolute facility-based quarantine period. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte defends Galvez, slams critics over corruption claims in Sinovac deal

Marje Pelayo   •   January 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte vouched for vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.’s plan to procure Chinese-made vaccine Sinovac for the government’s vaccination program against coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This is amid questions on the efficacy of Sinovac and allegations of overpricing.

“I’m telling Gen. Galvez na ang game plan niya, sundin niya (follow his game plan). With or without the investigation, proceed and implement what we plan to do,” President Duterte said.

Duterte revealed that even before the pandemic worsened, he had appealed to Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding the vaccines. In response, the Chinese leader promised to help.

Long before na pumutok ito tumawag na ako kay President Xi Jinping. Tapos sabi ko wala kaming resources. We do not know how to make it. Please do not forget the Philippines,” Duterte said, recalling his conversation with Xi.

Just recently, China committed to provide the Philippines with 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines for free.

As for the corruption issue, President Duterte assured that the procurement process will go through the thorough review of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez before the pricing and the documentary requirements are finalized. 

Duterte maintained that at this stage, the government is not allowed to speak of the pricing of the Sinovac vaccine as stated in the contract.

“They signed a memorandum of confidentiality. They cannot reveal the price kasi it will result in, na malugi ‘yung iba. — in some countries malugi sila, ‘yung ibang countries, hindi pare-pareho,” Duterte said.

He slammed critics who insist that there is corruption in the vaccine deal.

“Ito ayaw kong ‘yung pa-off tangent na mga tirada ninyo: ‘Bakit ba ito si Duterte Sinovac ng Sinovac?’ I-ano ninyo ang utak sa corruption-corruption. I don’t know why are you so occupied about corruption,” Duterte told critics. 

“Maghanap kayo hindi dito. Baka sa inyo. Baka sa departamento ninyo. Hindi dito sa akin, ” he added.

The Chief Executive also stressed that the government is not forcing anyone to receive and to purchase a particular brand of COVID-19 vaccine. Anyone who wants to procure vaccine other than Sinovac is free to do so just be responsible for the consequences.

“Almost everybody na kilala ko are scrambling to buy itong Pfizer. Well, to me I think it’s a good one. If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead. Nobody will stop you,” he said referring to a report that 23 elderly patients died after receiving the Pfizer-made vaccine.

“We never prohibited anybody from buying from government. We are not — we are not selling, we are buying for the people, libre.” he said. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Gov’t extends travel restrictions on 32 countries until January 31

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The national government has extended the travel restrictions on 32 countries until January 31 amid threat of the new COVID-19 variant.

The Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the recommendation to extend the travel restriction, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr.

Inaprubahan po ng inyong IATF ang rekomendasyon na ma-extend hanggang Janaury 31, 2021 ang entry travel restrictions at mga patakaran sa mga byaherong galing o transiting sa mga sumusunod na bansa kung saan meron na pong bagong strain ng COVID-19 (The IATF approved the recommendation to extend the entry travel restrictions until January 31, 2021, including the implementation of protocols for travelers transiting in areas with confirmed new strain of COVID-19),” Roque said.

Countries with travel restrictions until January 31:

  • The United Kingdom
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands
  • The People’s Republic of China, including Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • United States of America
  • Portugal
  • India
  • Finland
  • Norway
  • Jordan
  • Brazil
  • Austria
  • Pakistan
  • Jamaica
  • Luxembourg
  • Oman

Roque added that the IATF directed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to implement health protocols and guidelines in airlines. Contact tracing and quarantine protocols will also be intensified.

Lahat ng matutukoy na close contacts ay kailangang sumailalim sa mahigpit na facility-based 14-day quarantine samantalang ang natirang contacts mula sa flight manifest ay papayuhan sumunod sa appropriate quarantine protocols (All in close contact need to undergo in a facility-based 14-day quarantine while the remaining contacts from the flight manifest need to follow appropriate quarantine protocols),” the Palace official said.

Local government units are advised to boost the maintenance of their quarantine facilities as well as the use of Staysafe.PH system for better contact tracing.

The IATF also approved the continuous genomic biosurveillance activities of the Department of Health (DOH), UP-Philippine Genome Center, and the UP-National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates is not yet included in the list of countries covered by the travel restrictions. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Travel ban to lapse January 15, extension possible —Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Travelers from a total of 32 countries with reported cases of the new variants of coronavirus are still not allowed to enter the country.

However, the travel ban is only until Friday (January 15).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday that with the Philippines reporting its first patient infected with the new COVID-19 variant from the United Kingdom, the travel ban will likely be extended and may include the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the list.

“Ang aking payo po doon sa mga nagpaplanong magbiyahe na covered ng travel restrictions, yung mga dayuhan, wag ninyo na pong ituloy dahil yung naunang travel restrictions na inimpose ng president ay subject po to extension upon the approval of the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) at number one in the agenda po yan,” said Roque.

Roque added that the IATF will meet within the day to discuss the matter.

Meanwhile, the national government assures that the country has enough quarantine facilities for returning Filipinos coming from countries covered by the travel ban.

President Rodrigo Duterte hopes the new variant will not cause severe danger to the Filipinos.

“May bagong monster na naman. And I pray to God really na sana na hindi ito more dangerous, more toxic than the original covid,” he said.

Treatment czar Usec. Leopoldo Vega, meanwhile, said it is still best to conduct contact tracing and sampling to curb the spread of the new variant and designate a separate isolation facility for such cases.

“Kung magiging dominant po ang gagawin po namin talagang magbubukod kami ng ward for (new) COVID variant patients,” he said. -MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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