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Philippines imposes ban on foreigner entry: new COVID-19 variant detected

Measures taken to help curb the spread as the Philippines records 631,320 COVID-19 cases so far

The Philippines has temporarily suspended the entry of travelers, whether foreigners or Filipinos, from abroad (except Filipino workers returning from overseas) and imposed a cap on international arrivals to a maximum of 1,500 passengers per day starting from March 20.

In a memorandum circular, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) directed "all concerned agencies" to implement the travel restrictions from March 20 to April 19, due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

The following are exempted from the ban:

  • Holders of 9(c) visas
  • Medical repatriation and their escort/s duly endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers (DFA-OUMWA) or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration
  • Distressed returning overseas Filipinos duly endorsed by the DFA-OUMWA
  • Emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the NTF COVID-19

Covid lockdownOn Monday, Health Secretary, Francisco Duque III, said that this latest surge of COVID-19 cases would approach the peak levels recorded in August 2020.

Last Saturday, the Department of Health confirmed a new COVID-19 variant called P.3 has been traced in the country.

The DOH also confirmed the country’s first case of the P.1 variant first discovered in Brazil from samples of an overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who just returned from Brazil.

In line with this, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said that it had detected a mutated B.1.1.28 coronavirus strain — the strain that was the parent of the P.1 variant — in a traveler coming from the Philippines.

The mutated B.1.1.28 carried the same mutations found in the P.1 variant, which led Japan’s NIID to assume that the variant might also be more infectious.

Aside from the P.3, P.1 variants, health authorities also discovered in recent samples more cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom and additional cases of the B.1.351 variant from South Africa.

On Sunday, OCTA Research member, Professor Guido David said that, with a 1.9 reproduction rate, the country could see 8,000 new cases nationwide per day before April.

The Philippines has been seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, logging 5,404 new cases – the 4th highest daily tally since the pandemic began – on March 15, or one year since Metro Manila's lockdown started.

As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded 631,320 COVID-19 infections with 560,736 recoveries and 12,848 deaths overall.

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