Malacañang is mulling over to impose travel restrictions from India to avert the spread of a COVID-19 variant as the South Asian nation struggles with a surge in infections.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said India was facing a health crisis and currently battling a “double mutant” strain of COVID-19 that resulted behind the 300,000 fresh infections in the country last week
“The Philippines is studying imposing a travel ban on India. We’re looking into that although we don’t have direct flights to and from India,” he said.
Many countries including US, UK, Kuwait, France and Canada have banned flights from India, citing COVID-19 cases and the “double mutant” virus being found in the country.
The US and Britain rushed ventilators and vaccine materials to India Monday as the country battled a catastrophic, record-breaking coronavirus wave that has overwhelmed hospitals and set crematoriums working at full capacity.
A surge in recent days has seen patients’ families taking to social media to beg for oxygen supplies and locations of available hospital beds and has forced the Indian capital New Delhi to extend a week-long lockdown. (See related story on B2 — Editors)
India broke the world record for the most new coronavirus cases this week, surpassing 330,000 new cases on Friday, as deaths in the past 24 hours jumped to a record 2,263.
The United States held the previous one-day record with 300,669 new cases recorded on January 8, 2021.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the Philippines had not yet detected the presence of the double mutant variant.
“We reviewed all of our records. It was also studied by the Philippine Genome Center,” she said.
She added: “Here in the Philippines, we reviewed all of our records. We had the Philippine Genome Center study it. We have not detected yet this kind of variant across the 5,000 specimens sequenced here in the country.”
The variant first detected in India has been making headlines recently as cases surged in the said country.
The variant has also been detected in other countries such as the United States, Australia, Israel, Switzerland and Singapore.
It has been tagged a “double mutant” because of the presence of two notable mutations in the spike protein of the virus, which are said to allow the virus to easily gain entry into the human body and multiply faster.
Vergeire said the DOH, which is discussing the possibility of a travel ban with the Department of Foreign Affairs, would release its recommendations to the IATF as soon as they received word from experts.
In the Philippines, 659 B.1.1.7 (United Kingdom) variant cases, 695 B.1.351 (South Africa) variant cases, 2 P.1 (Brazil) variant cases, and 148 cases of the P.3 variant first detected in Central Visayas have been recorded so far.