Following reports of the new Covid19 variant, Omicron, the Philippines has imposed restrictions on travelers coming from countries that have reported cases of the new strain. The ban will be in effect from Dec. 30 to Jan. 15.
Among the countries and territories upon which the travel ban was imposed are the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Netherlands, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
National Task Force Against Covid19 spokeperson Restituto Padilla likewise announced the suspension of incoming flights from HK, where many overseas Filipinos work.
Padilla said that OFWs would not be able to return home due to border controls.
However, travelers who are already en route and will arrive before Dec. 30 will be admitted but are required to undergo a 14-day facility-based quarantine. Those exiting the country are subject to existing protocols of the Philippines and the entry guidelines of the destination.
The United States and European Union as well as a number of other countries have also imposed travel bans on travelers coming from regions with the new variant.
The new variant, labeled ‘Omicron’ by the World Health Organization was found to be responsible for a recent surge in infections in Gauteng, South Africa. The area is the region’s most populous city. Cases shot up from about 200 per day to nearly 2,700 per day just last week.
It was first detected in the region and found in travelers to Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
The health body considers it a designated variant of concern, meaning that “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.”
Authorities find Omicron worrisome because it appears to have a high number of mutations in the virus’ spike protein.