FOREIGN travelers arriving from or transiting through 19 countries, aside from the United Kingdom (UK), will not be allowed to enter the Philippines beginning 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, December 30, 2020.

Filipino citizens with travel history in UK or in any of the 19 countries within 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines will be allowed to enter the country, but will be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine regardless of RT-PCR test results.

The prohibition, which is aimed at blocking the more contagious UK variant of Sars-CoV-2, will last until January 15, 2021. Sars-CoV-2 causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Malacañang said the prohibition covers UK and the following countries:

1. Denmark

2. Ireland

3. Japan

4. Australia

5. Israel

6. The Netherlands

7. Hong Kong, SAR

8. Switzerland

9. France

10. Germany

11. Iceland

12. Italy

13. Lebanon

14. Singapore

15. Sweden

16. South Korea

17. South Africa

18. Canada

19. Spain

Passengers who have travel history in UK and in any of the 19 countries will also not be allowed entry.

Passengers who are already in transit and will arrive before 12:01 a.m., December 30, from the 19 countries will be allowed to enter the country, but will be required to undergo facility-based 14-day quarantine regardless of RT-PCR test results.

RT-PCR refers to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test, which detects Sars-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal samples.

All other inbound international travelers will be strictly required to complete a 14-day quarantine period. Those with negative RT-PCR test results at the point of entry will be allowed to undergo home quarantine.

All travelers arriving from or transiting through UK have not been allowed to enter the country since 12:01 a.m. of December 24.

The prohibition was originally programmed to last until the end of the year, but Duterte approved its extension to January 15, 2021.

The list of countries covered by the prohibition could still increase as the Office of the President (OP) may impose restrictions on travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new Sars-CoV-2 variant.

This will be done upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Outbound travel to UK and the 19 countries is still allowed subject to existing exit protocols and the entry protocols of a passenger’s destination.

Duterte also approved the recommendation to require diagnostics laboratories at points of entry to submit Sars-CoV-2-positive specimens to the Philippine Genome Center, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health for genome sequencing.

The RITM, meanwhile, was directed to develop a standard operating procedure / response protocol for reports on new variants and strains of Sars-CoV-2.

The Bureau of Quarantine and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration were also directed to ensure strict adherence to quarantine and testing protocols among returning Filipinos and overseas Filipino workers.

These two agencies are also required to provide a line list to the local government units to ensure that the 14-day quarantine is completed and monitored.

A copy will also be sent to the DOH Covid-19 Surveillance and Quick Action Team for profiling and trend analysis. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)