COVID-19: Philippines Widens South Asian Travel Ban

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao, Philippines
2021-05-05
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COVID-19: Philippines Widens South Asian Travel Ban Health workers inoculate a patient with the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, at the Makati Coliseum in Metropolitan Manila, May 5, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Updated at 6:05 a.m. ET on 2021-05-07

The Philippine government on Wednesday expanded its COVID-19 travel ban on India to include travelers arriving here from four other South Asian nations, saying this was needed to stop the entry of a highly infectious strain first identified in India.

The strain, known as the B.1.617 Variant, was first reported in India in October and has led to a massive surge in cases in recent weeks in South Asia’s largest nation. On April 27, the Philippines announced a ban and other restrictions on travelers arriving here from India.

Under the widened ban, “all passengers coming from or who have been to Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka within 14 days immediately preceding arrival shall be prohibited from entering the country,” the Philippine president’s office said in a memorandum dated Wednesday and posted on its website.

The ban and other travel restrictions, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 7, are needed to “prevent the entry of the SARS-COV-2 B.1.617 Variant first reported in India,” the memorandum said.

As many 20.6 million COVID-19 cases have been recorded in India, resulting in 226,188 deaths, since the pandemic broke out there early last year. Worldwide, more than 153.1 million infections and 3.2 million deaths have been recorded since the pandemic began, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Health said that some travelers who arrived in the Philippines from India before April 27 – when Manila sealed the national borders to travelers arriving from that South Asian country – had tested positive for COVID-19.

“As to these Indian travelers that were quarantined upon arrival here before the restrictions were imposed, 110 of them underwent testing and six turned out to be positive, and it is now submitted to the Philippine Genome Center for whole genome sequencing,” DOH spokeswoman Maria Rosario Vergeire said Wednesday.

She said the health department was recommending that all inbound travelers be tested at least a week before their scheduled arrival here.

“The highest chance for a person who might have a disease to test positive is on the 7th and 8th day. This is our recommendation to get accurate test results and be able to isolate those who are sick,” Vergeire said.

The health department later amended its information to say that five of the travelers who arrived from India, not six, had tested positive for the virus.

In related news, the Philippine Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna for emergency use in the country, reports said.

On Wednesday, the Philippines reported 5,585 new COVID-19 infections and 178 deaths. The country has a cumulative caseload of 1,073,555 and 17,800 pandemic deaths.

Jeoffrey Maitem contributed to this report from Cotabato City, Philippines.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Philippine health authorities had detected cases of the highly infectious B.1.617 Variant of COVID-19 among passengers arriving from India before the travel ban went into effect.

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