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DOH, IATF to discuss travel restrictions

The Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will meet today to discuss travel restrictions following reports of new variant of Covid in more countries*

The Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will discuss travel restrictions following reports of detection of United Kingdom’s new variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 in more countries.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday directed DOH technical teams and experts to review proposals for stricter control measures for travelers coming from countries that have reported cases of the new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the Covid-19.

Experts’ recommendations will be presented to the IATF-EID in its meeting today.

The DOH, in coordination with the World Health Organization, is closely monitoring countries with documented cases of the new variant. As previously issued by the DOH, these include Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia. Further, the DOH continues to monitor countries reporting other new local variants, such as South Africa.

On top of recommending strict mandatory 14-day quarantine for incoming travelers from the identified countries, the DOH and its panel of experts and WHO are also looking at the possible restriction of entry of travelers from these countries.

This is being revisited alongside the new risk classification for provinces, highly urbanized cities, and independent component cities, and the anticipated post-holiday surge.

The Philippines, through President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of IATF-EID Resolution No. 90, imposed a ban on all flights from the United Kingdom from December 24-31.

During the Dec. 26 meeting in Malacañang, Duterte approved the extension of the ban for an additional two weeks — the operational details of which are also slated to be discussed in the IATF meeting today.

But Duterte thumbed down the proposal of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to disallow the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers from the UK to the Philippines.

Duterte said he could not stop OFWs from returning to the country, should they wish to come home following the discovery of the new strain of Covid-19 in the UK.

“So whether or not they would eventually come home, we cannot escape that. I abhor the idea of ‘yung hindi mo pauwiin (not allowing them to return home),” Duterte said.

Bello, during the meeting, said his proposal was meant to prevent the possible spread of new Covid-19 strain in the Philippines.

He noted that there was a possibility that OFWs who will go back to the country might be “contaminated” by the new variant of the virus.

Duterte, however, said OFWs who will yield a negative result may return to the Philippines.

He added that repatriated OFWs need to undergo quarantine upon their arrival.

CARGOES AND BAGGAGE

Meantime, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade proposed to withhold the release of cargoes and baggage of travelers until the conclusion of their mandatory quarantine.

Duterte viewed Tugade’s suggestion as a “good plan”.

“Prohibit them from carrying the cargoes. But that is an added burden to you,” he said.

However, Dr. Marissa Alejandria of the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases said it is “unnecessary to quarantine” cargoes and baggage. “We don’t need to quarantine baggage and cargo. The usual standard disinfection procedures would suffice whether there’s a mutation or not because the main driver of transmission is respiratory droplet,” Alejandria said.*PNA

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