MANILA, Jan 15 (Mabuhay) — The Philippines has extended the travel ban on countries with confirmed cases of B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 variant, or the United Kingdom (UK) variant, until the end of January, Malacañang announced on Friday.

To curb the spread of the new variant in the country, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the recommendation to extend the temporary travel restrictions until January 31, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

“Travel restrictions in more than 30 countries extended until January 31, 2021,” Roque said.

Travelers from the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, the United States, Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, Brazil, Austria, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg, and Oman are prohibited from going to the Philippines.

Studies found that the UK variant is nearly 70 percent more transmissible than the original Covid-19 variant. However, there is no evidence yet that it is deadlier than the previous variant.

The government’s fresh directive came after the new variant was detected in a 29-year-old Filipino male who arrived home from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 7.

Roque said there was no decision yet to prohibit the entry of foreign travelers from the UAE.

“The President will be the one to declare that, if ever. The list is for extension of restrictions and not for new,” he said when asked about the possible inclusion of UAE in the travel restriction.

Roque said the IATF-EID had already directed the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to strictly implement issuances against airlines that allow the boarding of passengers who are prohibited from entering the Philippines, pursuant to the travel restrictions imposed by the Office of the President and the IATF.

The travel ban was supposed to expire on Friday.

Filipinos from areas covered by the travel restrictions were initially allowed to come home, on condition that they undergo an “absolute” facility-based 14-day quarantine, notwithstanding a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result.

However, the IATF-EID Resolution issued on Thursday states that the temporary travel ban is applicable to “all travelers coming from or transiting” through the banned countries.

Roque said the exemptions to the entry restrictions may be issued by the IATF-EID technical working group, in coordination with concerned government agencies.

“The IATF, in coordination with other agencies, may issue implementing guidelines on the exemptions to these entry restrictions,” he said. (MNS)

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