Philippines mulls adding Malaysia, Thailand to travel ban
MANILA, Philippines — The government is looking to impose travel restrictions on two more Asian countries facing a surge in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque yesterday said the DOH Epidemiology Bureau is studying the possibility of recommending to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) the inclusion of Malaysia and Thailand in the travel ban.
“We are looking at Malaysia. We are looking at Thailand. These areas have been observed to have an uncontrolled surge in Delta variant cases,” Duque said in a Laging Handa public briefing.
The DOH, he said, is closely coordinating with the health authorities of Malaysia and Thailand to better assess the situation in the two countries.
Epidemiology bureau chief Alethea de Guzman explained that the new cases in Malaysia reached as high as 11,618 last July 14 and that the Delta variant has infected all its states, causing a lot of concern there.
For Indonesia, she said the new cases reached 54,000 last July 14, which is 10 times higher than its records in June.
This rapid increase in the number of cases in Indonesia, she added, prompted the Philippines to impose the travel ban until the end of the month
De Guzman noted that while the Philippines has also detected several Delta variant cases, these are all from among incoming international travelers only and that there are no local cases yet.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the decision to include Indonesia in the list of countries with travel ban last Wednesday is not late since there are very few travellers coming from Indonesia. Citing records from April, he said there were only 724 persons, mostly Filipinos, who arrived in the country from Indonesia.
The government earlier imposed travel restrictions for travellers coming from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Duque reminded all local government units to enhance their “prevent, detect, isolate, treat, reintegrate” strategies and advised people to strictly adhere to minimum public health standards against the pandemic.
Dr. Bernadett Velasco of the One Hospital Command said the government is already preparing health facilities and hospitals in case of a surge in COVID cases due to the Delta variant.
“First of all, we want to control the borders. We don’t want the Delta variant to enter our territory. So we are strictly monitoring and doing proper border control, including the returning Filipinos or even the arriving foreigners,” Velasco stressed.
She noted that while the entry of Delta variant cannot really be prevented, the government is preparing for it by creating a full surveillance team that can check and do contact tracing, among other functions. – ChristinaMendez