Travel ban to lapse January 15, extension possible —Palace

Marje Pelayo   •   January 14, 2021   •   128

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)

Kalibo Airport on lockdown until Jan. 21

Robie de Guzman   •   January 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines The Kalibo International Airport is currently under a three-day lockdown after several of its personnel tested positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The airport is on lockdown from January 19 to 21 to give way to disinfection after 11 employees were confirmed to have contracted the viral respiratory disease last week.

The lockdown includes offices outside the passenger terminal building but within the airport complex, particularly the Administrative Office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Aerodome Rescue Fire Fighting station, and the Philippine Airlines ticketing office.

Airport operations will resume on Friday, January 22.

400K OFWs sent home during pandemic — DOLE

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2021

Manila, Philippines — Over 400,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been sent home since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

As of January 16, the Labor Department records a total of 410,211 repatriates who have undergone quarantine and were cleared of COVID-19.

“After their ordeal in their country of origin, our dear OFWs were all provided accommodation, food, transportation, and cash assistance by the government. Now, they are safely home with their families,” DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

The latest figures from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration showed that 8,273 OFWs were transported to their respective provinces last week.

An estimate of 60,000 to 80,000 more OFWs are expected to be repatriated this year, according to reports from the various Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of DOLE. AAC

WHO laments world’s poorest countries might get left behind in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 20, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) has lamented that distribution of COVID-19 vaccine to the “world’s poorest countries” could face delays.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said richer countries and several private companies are buying up all the available vaccines. This also causes a spike in prices of COVID-19 vaccines.

“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure—and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” he said.

Ghebreyesus reported that 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries while only 25 have been administered in one lowest-income country.

“The situation is compounded by the fact that most manufacturers have prioritized regulatory approval in rich countries where the profits are highest, rather than submitting full dossiers to WHO,” he noted.

WHO previously promised free COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries enlisted in the COVAX facility, which includes the Philippines.

The WHO Director General also expressed concerns that the pandemic may last longer if there is no coordination in the vaccine distribution across the globe.

“Not only does this ‘me-first’ approach leave the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk, it’s also self-defeating. Ultimately, these actions will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering,” he said. AAC (with reports from Mirasol Abogadil)

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