Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday it is “premature” for the Philippines to close its borders to travelers from areas with monkeypox cases.
Duque said he instead gave orders to the Bureau of Quarantine for the strict monitoring and surveillance of these passengers.
The official said that unlike COVID-19, monkeypox transmission is not airborne.
“Monkeypox does not have the same transmission potential as COVID. It’s transmitted through direct physical contact. To a certain degree, the transmission has respiratory droplets, but it’s not airborne. It’s more common through direct skin-to-skin contact,” Duque said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay.
“It is premature to be closing borders to travelers from these endemic areas. Ang utos ko sa last May 7 sa BOQ is to be very strict, to enforce strict screening standards, symptom screening (My order last May 7 was to be very strict, to enforce strict screening standards, symptom screening.),” he said.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that is related to but less severe than smallpox, causing a rash that spreads, fever, chills, and aches, among other symptoms.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday it was aware of more than 700 global cases of monkeypox, including 21 in the United States.
Sixteen of the first 17 cases were among people who identify as men who have sex with men, according to a new CDC report, and 14 were thought to be travel associated.
All patients are in recovery or have recovered, and no cases have been fatal. Practicing safe sex could help prevent monkeypox transmission, said Duque.
The World Health Organization earlier said the disease was not sexually-transmitted.
“Ang report na pumapasok, increasingly parang (the reports we are getting, increasingly, it appears) it is more common in individuals men having sex with men… Even the lesions now are commonly seen around the genital area,” he said.
The government is working to acquire testing capacity for monkeypox, Duque said.
Canada recently issued a monkeypox-related travel notice warning travelers to take extra precautions as it warned of possible delays in returning home should they become ill.