By Fernan Angeles
PASSENGERS onboard flights from the United Kingdom and three other nations, where a mutated strain of the deadly coronavirus have been reported, are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the Philippines.
In a radio interview, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque hinted at the mandatory procedure as among those which the President has approved in a meeting with other government officials last Saturday.
“Lahat ng nanggaling sa mga bansa na meron nang bagong strain ay 14-day quarantine na sila kahit ano pang resulta ng kanilang PCR test,” Roque said.
Aside from the United Kingdom, passengers from Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore will also have to be isolated upon setting foot in the country, he added.
It was also in that very same meeting that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that one of the 79 passengers who arrived in the Philippines from the UK tested positive for COVID-19.
However, it has yet been determined whether or not the person was carrying the new strain. Duterte also extended the travel ban for flights from the UK for another two weeks, which means the restriction would remain in effect until the second week of January.
Travelers from the UK will be isolated in quarantine facilities in Clark, Pampanga. “Marami naman tayong facilities diyan, wala naman pong problema ‘yan. Sa katotohanan ay halos nasa 50 percent ang ating mga facilities. Ibig sabihin, mga kalahati pa ang available na mga isolation facilities natin at hindi naman ganu’n karami ‘yung mga flights na pumapasok na international,” he added.
Roque, in another statement, said the Philippine government is also bent on intensifying its virus surveillance efforts to determine if the new coronavirus variant is already in the country.
The strengthened virus surveillance will include target sequencing in high-risk groups, such as clusters with increased cases and clusters with increased severity and deaths, he added. The recommendation of Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra to shorten the period in coming up with the implementing rules and regulations for Executive Order No. 122 strengthening border control through the adoption and implementation of an Advanced Passenger Information System was also approved by the President, Roque said.
For now, Roque said he does not have any data yet showing that there is already a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“Ang ginagawa natin ay patuloy na pagpapaalala sa ating mga mamamayan na kapag hindi sila sumunod sa mask, sa paghugas [ng kamay], at pag-iwas, siguradong mas maraming magkakasakit,” he said.
“Naniniwala naman ako na disiplinado ang mga Pilipino at ninanais talaga nila ang kanilang kalusugan para sila ay makapaghanapbuhay,” he added.
In a related development, Roque admitted that the government-preferred COVID-19 vaccine from China has yet to apply for an emergency use authorization for their vaccines in the country like what Pfizer-BioNTech did.
“Inaasahan natin na sana ‘yung iba, kagaya ng Sinovac, Sinopharm at ‘yung Moderna at AstraZeneca ay mag-apply na rin dahil hindi naman nila magagamit ang kanilang bakuna sa Pilipinas kung walang approval ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration) natin,” Roque added.