BEGINNING 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 7, 2021, travelers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka will also not be allowed entry into the Philippines.
A memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday, May 5, said the prohibition also covers those with travel history to the four countries in the last 14 days prior to the scheduled arrival in the Philippines. It will last until 11:59 p.m. of May 14, 2021.
Those who arrive before the ban's effectivity will be allowed entry, but will be required to undergo facility-based quarantine for 14 days regardless of the result of a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Passengers who were merely transiting through the four countries will not be deemed as having come from there as long as they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not allowed entry into those countries.
The Executive Secretary's directive states that these passengers may not complete the 14-day quarantine at a facility, but will be required to comply with the testing and quarantine protocols.
The ban on travelers from India, which will also last until May 14, 2021, was extended shortly after five arrivals, not six as DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said earlier, tested positive for the virus.
In a statement, the Department of Health (DOH) said the five individuals were among 149 passengers with travel history from India from April 1 to 30. They were allowed to enter the country because they arrived before the travel ban took effect at 12:01 a.m. of April 29, 2021.
Among the five who tested positive, only one is in isolation. The “disposition of the four patients was being verified,” the DOH statement read.
DOH personnel have yet to determine whether the nasopharyngeal swabs collected from the five positive cases are adequate for whole genome sequencing.
The test results of seven other individuals were being verified as of Thursday morning, May 6. The rest of the 149 tested negative.
All 149 were quarantined upon arrival and tested on the sixth or seventh day, per the existing testing protocol for international travelers as approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
They included 129 returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) and 20 foreigners.
The DOH said it was closely coordinating with local government units, and Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Units to get updates on the health status of all these travelers.
The travel ban on India was imposed amid the exponential growth in Covid-19 cases and the detection of a new Sars-CoV-2 variant that was assigned to the B.1.617 lineage.
As of May 3, the University of the Philippines - Philippine Genome Center has detected 1,075 B.1351 variant cases (first detected in South Africa), 948 B.1.1.7 variant cases (first detected in UK), 157 P.3 variant cases (first detected in the Philippines), and two P.1 variant cases (first detected in Brazilian travelers).
The P.3 is considered a variant under investigation while the rest are classified as variants of concern (VOCs).
DOH officials have clarified that these variants are not the dominant forms of Sars-CoV-2 that have infected more than 1.07 million individuals in the Philippines. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)