The Bureau of Immigration will immediately implement the extended travel ban on arrivals from South Asian countries to include Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) starting May 15.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said they received an order from Malacañang extending the ongoing temporary travel ban for travelers coming from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka until May 31, 2021.
“Following said order, those coming from Oman and UAE will temporarily be barred as well, until the end of the month,” said Morente.
“Those who will be coming from or have a travel history within the last 14 days from the 7 countries will excluded and sent back to their port of origin,” he added.
BI Port Operations Division Chief lawyer Carlos Capulong said they are not expecting anyone coming from the two countries, as airlines were instructed not to allow the boarding of passengers prohibited from entering unless they are part of repatriation efforts of the national government.
Capulong clarified that travelers who would be merely transiting through the said regions would be allowed to enter the Philippines.
“Transiting would mean that they did not leave the airport terminal, were not cleared by immigration authorities, and are just there for a layover,” he stated.
The flight ban was implemented to stop the entry of the new COVID-19 variant from India.
Meanwhile, three close contacts of the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) infected with the SARS-CoV-2 variant first detected in India also tested positive for the coronavirus, the Department of Health said Saturday.
The DOH previously reported that two male OFWs from Oman and the UAE caught the B.1.617 variant.
“As for case number 2, which is the 58-year-old male from UAE, we have 32 verified close contacts in the airplane and three of them are positive (for COVID-19),” DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in the Laging Handa briefing.
The patients’ samples have been sent to the Philippine Genome Center to determine if they caught the Indian variant, Vergeire added.
“As for the two, we are still trying to locate them. Twenty-eight of the 32 close contacts are negative but we’re also verifying the data of one passenger because they are not in the COVID-KAYA database yet),” she explained.
COVID-KAYA is a platform used by health care workers to collect and share COVID-19 cases with the DOH.
For the India-variant positive OFW from Oman, Vergeire said the DOH identified six close contacts, three of whom already tested negative.
The other three are still being located as their names on the passengers’ manifest do not match the data that authorities have on the database.
The DOH said fully vaccinated individuals should still wear face masks as scientific evidence shows that they can still contract and spread COVID-19.
“Given the science and evidence, the Department of Health still cannot recommend that fully vaccinated individuals can leave home without masks,” it said.
The DOH reiterated its view on masks a day after it rejected a proposal for “vaccine passes” for vaccinated individuals entering indoor establishments.
“Even if you are fully vaccinated…hose vaccinated still need to follow minimum health protocols. The DOH does not recommend yet this proposed vaccine pass,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.
Philippine employers should not require COVID-19 vaccination for individuals applying for work in their firms, the health department said Saturday, even as business leaders aimed to fast track the reopening of the pandemic-battered economy.
Health Undersecretary Vergeire said while inoculation against the respiratory disease is important, it remains “voluntary.”
“We cannot make this a requirement for work because vaccination is voluntary. Our countrymen should also remember that while this is voluntary, it is important to be vaccinated,” Vergeire said.
Her statement followed the reported requirement of US-based Delta Air Lines for their new hires to be vaccinated against the disease, becoming among the first major firms to implement such policy.
The DOH reminded local government units that COVID-19 jabs should be stored separately from food, as this is not a part of the country’s protocol on vaccine handling.
The statement from the department came amid reports that some localities supposedly have contracts with food chain suppliers tapped for storing and transporting vaccines.
In late January, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told local government units and private companies to observe national government-set vaccine cold storage standards and not just resort to their own refrigeration measures.
This, he said, would prevent wastage of the vaccines.
Zuellig Pharma Philippines, a top pharma-grade logistics provider, also explained earlier that vaccines cannot be kept in just “any freezer.”
Vergeire said the vaccine vials from the boat that capsized in Real, Quezon on May 13 were intact and are still safe for use.
She said authorities also double-checked the potency of the shots and concluded that they are still safe for use.
The Philippine Coast Guard reported on Friday that a Department of Agriculture service boat capsized after accidentally hitting a concrete post about 100 meters away from the shoreline of Barangay Ungos, Real, Quezon.
The DA service boat was carrying two boxes of COVID-19 vaccines, two personnel from the Department of Health, and two police officers of the Municipal Police Station Polillo, as well as the boat captain and the motorman.