Philippines to ban travellers from US over new coronavirus variant

The death toll climbed to 9,248 after four more patients died from the viral disease. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (XINHUA, BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines will block foreign travellers from the United States starting from Sunday (Jan 3), following the detection of the new and more infectious coronavirus variant in that country, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Friday.

"Foreign passengers coming from the US, or who have been to the US within 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines shall be prohibited from entering the country effective 12.01am Manila time of January 3, 2021, until January 15, 2021," Mr Roque said in a statement.

Foreigner travellers coming from the US, or who have been to the US within 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines who arrive before 12.01am on Sunday will be allowed to enter the Philippines, he added.

However, those passengers will be required to undergo "an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period", even if their coronavirus tests show negative results, Mr Roque added.

He said Filipino citizens coming from the US, or who have been to the US within 14 days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, including those arriving after Sunday, will be allowed to enter the Philippines.

The US is the 21st place that the Philippines has imposed a temporary 14-day entry ban on flights and foreign passengers to prevent the spread of the new strain.

The Philippines initially imposed a temporary entry ban on flights and foreign travellers coming from Britain, where the new variant was found, to the Philippines from Dec 24 to Dec 31.

The government extended the ban to Jan 15 and included 19 other countries and territories with the reported new strain.

The Philippines now has 475,820 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 9,248 deaths.

In a New Year message, President Rodrigo Duterte voiced confidence that the Philippines will sail through the pandemic and see brighter days in 2021 amid the global health crisis.

"The Covid-19 pandemic may have cost us so many lives and material resources, but we also learnt so much from it." he said.

"We realised the value of human life and our relationships with each other. We understood what it means to be a family, a community, a nation. We learnt to share and to look after the welfare of our brethren."

Mr Duterte said 2021 is "a time for new beginnings and a time to be hopeful".

"Now, we march on to a new year wiser, stronger and more prepared for the challenges ahead," the 75-year-old leader said.

The Philippines has South-east Asia's second-worst Covid-19 outbreak - after Indonesia.

The country implemented one of the world's longest lockdowns from mid-March and has gradually loosened curbs in the past six months as the economy plunged into a recession.

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