The government has expanded its travel restrictions to Malaysia and Thailand in a bid to stem the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant, Malacañang said Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the President has decided to include Malaysia and Thailand in the countries with a travel ban, would take effect starting July 25 and last until July 31, 2021.
“All travelers coming from Malaysia and Thailand or those with travel history to Malaysia and Thailand within the last 14 days will be restricted and must undergo a strict 14-day facility-based quarantine,” Roque said.
“These travel restrictions, however, are subject to the same exceptions on repatriation and special commercial flights for Filipinos, but they have to follow the prescribed testing and quarantine protocols,” he added.
The Philippines previously banned travelers from eight countries: Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.
The Philippines has recorded 47 cases of the Delta variant, eight of which are active. Three of the cases have died.
The Department of Health (DOH), meanwhile, emphasized the need to continuously enforce strict border control measures and intensify local COVID-19 responses with the local transmission of the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant in the Philippines.
The country has been implementing travel bans and stringent border control measures to delay the entry of the variant, giving the country a head start to prepare its capacity to manage potential surges.
Following the phylogenetic analysis conducted by the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center, and case investigation by the DOH Epidemiology Bureau and the regional and local epidemiology and surveillance units, clusters of Delta variant cases were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission.
Upon detection of local cases with the Delta variant, the DOH said the government has initiated enhanced COVID-19 response in areas where Delta variant cases were detected through the implementation of a “four-door” strategy.
Doors 1 and 2 delayed the entry of the Delta variant by strengthening border controls.
Door 3 would involve strengthening the implementation of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate (PDITR) while Door 4 is ensuring that the country’s health are capacity is “ready for a In line with this, the government is also making sure that there are enough supplies of COVID-19 medicines, oxygen tanks, and critical care equipment in hospitals and augmentation of human resources.
“The DOH reminds the public that while the government is strengthening the implementation of PDITR at the local level and augmenting the healthcare capacity, the best defense against any COVID-19 variant is still the correct and consistent adherence to the minimum public health standards and getting vaccinated when it is their turn,” the DOH said in a statement.
“Moreover, the public is advised to avoid unnecessary travels and gatherings. DOH urges LGUs to shorten the duration of case detection to isolation and immediately isolate symptomatic patients, and ramp up their vaccination and prioritize the senior citizens and people with underlying conditions. The DOH further calls on everyone to work together to beat the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Palace said fully vaccinated passengers can now avail of the “green lanes” for a shorter quarantine period of seven days in an isolation facility.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has modified the protocols for fully-vaccinated individuals who can avail of “green lanes,” Roque said.
“Arriving passengers must make sure that their port of origin is a ‘green’ country or jurisdiction and they stayed there exclusively in the last 14 days prior to their arrival in the Philippines,” Roque said.
The Palace official said persons who are qualified for green lanes must also be fully vaccinated, whether in the Philippines or abroad.
“Their vaccination status can be independently verified or confirmed by Philippine authorities as valid and authentic upon arrival in the country,” Roque added.