THE Philippine government has temporarily banned incoming flights from Hong Kong following the detection of Omicron variant, a new and potentially more infectious strain of Sars-CoV-2, National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 spokesperson Restituto Padilla said on Sunday, November 28, 2021.

In a television interview, Padilla said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases temporarily suspended the entry of flights coming from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Hong Kong where there were cases of B.1.1.529, now known as the Omicron variant.

The ban will last until December 15, 2021.

READ: Travelers from South Africa, 6 other countries barred from entering PH

"Bi-nan po lahat ng country na may na-detect na variant. So Hong Kong, may na-detect po diyan, so kasama na rin po iyon," he said.

(All countries where the Omicron variant was detected have been banned, including Hong Kong.)

“Ang movement po ng Filipino ay hindi pinagbabawal. Pero 'yong flight na kanilang sasakyan na papunta dito, pinagbabawal. So kung wala silang masasakyan, wala rin silang means para makarating," he added.

(The movement of Filipinos is allowed, but the flights going to the Philippines from those countries have been banned, so they also have no means of entering the country.)

Padilla said Filipinos coming from the said countries will undergo strict quarantine procedures to prevent the entry of the Omicron variant in the country.

Earlier, Health secretary Francisco Duque said he has already recommended the ban to the executive secretary for approval.

Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana, then in South Africa.

The first Omicron case in Hong Kong was a traveler from South Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified Omicron as a variant of concern that has a large number of mutations and has “some more in characteristics.”

“Right now, there are more studies that are underway in South Africa and in other countries to better characterize the variant in terms of transmissibility, in terms of severity and any impact in our countrymen," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove from WHO said.

Infectious disease expert in the Philippines Dr. Rontgene Solante said the Omicron variant may be more transmissible and infectious especially to those who have weak immune systems.

For the first time since January, the Department of Health (DOH) has recorded less than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases in four consecutive days, from Wednesday, November 24.

In its 4 p.m. case bulletin on Saturday, November 27, the DOH recorded 899 fresh Covid-19 cases in the country, bringing the total caseload to 2,831,177 in which 17,052 were active cases. (SunStar Philippines)