The Department of Health (DOH) is considering a ban on travelers from Malaysia and Thailand because of the threat of the more transmissible Delta variant, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Thursday.
“We are looking at Malaysia. We are also looking at Thailand where there seems to be an uncontrollable increase in Delta variant cases. Those are what we are monitoring,” Duque said in Filipino during a briefing Thursday.
The Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health is studying that and may make a recommendation for the InterAgency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on expanding the travel ban, he added.
In a separate Palace briefing, DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr. Alethea De Guzman said Malaysia logged a record-high 11,618 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with the Delta variant present in each of its states.
She said the variant has spread to at least 98 countries since it was first identified in December 2020.
De Guzman emphasized that two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine remain effective against the Delta variant.
The IATF earlier included Indonesia in the list of countries covered by a temporary travel ban.
The ban on travelers from Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, and Oman will be in effect until July 31.
The Philippines has only detected 19 Delta variant cases as of July 4. All of the cases are returning overseas Filipinos.
Meanwhile, the Palace said the travel restrictions on Indonesia did not come too late because the entry of travelers has since been limited.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said only 724 travelers, mostly returning overseas Filipinos, have arrived from Indonesia since April. All of them underwent strict 10-day facility-based quarantine upon arrival, Roque added.
A Filipino community leader in Indonesia said the travel ban was a big problem for Filipinos working there, particularly for those whose contracts were ending.
Interviewed on Balitanghali on Thursday, Norwin Castro said homebound Filipino workers face displacement, unable to go home and needing to renew their visas and finding accommodations because their contracts had ended.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed the ban because Indonesia is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the more transmissible Delta variant.
Also on Thursday, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno urged the government to intensify the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program, saying the threats posed by the more deadly Delta variant of the virus could derail the full recovery of the economy.
In an online briefing, Diokno said the potential entry of the Delta variant in the country could be a key downside risk to the growth outlook.
“It will necessitate strict imposition of quarantine restrictions that will derail [the] full recovery of the economy,” Diokno said.
“The government must intensify the vaccine deployment,” he said. He said the more infectious COVID-19 variant could also affect the US monetary policy stance that could impede the growth outlook of the world’s largest economy.