(UPDATED) The National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 will temporarily prohibit inbound travel of foreigners and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who are not contract workers to prevent a further rise in cases with Sars-CoV-2 variants.
The restriction will take effect at 12 a.m., March 20 and last until 11:59 p.m., April 19, 2021.
In a memorandum circular issued Tuesday, March 16, NTF chairperson Delfin Lorenzana also set a limit to the number of international arrivals to 1,500 a day. A Civil Aeronautics Board advisory said this will be implemented from 12 a.m. of March 18 to 11:59 p.m. of April 18, 2021 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Those still allowed entry into the country are holders of 9(c) visas, medical repatriation and their escorts, distressed ROFs, and emergency, humanitarian and other analogous cases approved by the NTF.
Lorenzana's memorandum noted that the entry of Sars-CoV-2 variants with possible increased transmissibility is among the factors that led to a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the country.
The Department of Health (DOH) and UP Philippine Genome Center announced on March 13 that additional cases with variants have been detected.
There were 59 new cases with the B.1.1.7 (UK) variant, 32 new cases with the B.1.351 (South Africa) variant and one case with the P.1 (Brazil) variant.
Of the 59 B.1.1.7 cases, 18 are ROFs, 30 are local and 11 under verification whether they are local or ROF. The first reported B.1.1.7 case in the Philippines is a returning Filipino from Dubai.
Among the 32 additional B.1.351 cases, one is an ROF, 21 are local and 10 are under verification.
The sole P.1 variant case is an ROF with address in Western Visayas.
As of March 13, there were 177 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant, 90 cases with the B.1.351 variant and one P.1 variant.
The PGC had also announced a total of 98 cases with mutations that were assigned to a new P.3 variant, which was detected first in Central Visayas.
New Covid-19 cases have exceeded 4,000 in the last five days from March 12 to 16, and reached a high of 5,404, the fourth highest single-day tally since the pandemic began, on March 15.
Aside from the entry of the variants, other factors blamed for the surge are non-compliance to minimum public health standards, increased mobility of people, and delays in detection and isolation of infected patients. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)