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6 more countries restricted due to new virus strain

FOREIGNERS from six more countries with the COVID-19 variant are now banned from entering the Philippines.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday said the new restrictions apply for travelers who will arrive from the following countries: Portugal, India, Finland, Norway, Jordan, and Brazil.

“The travel ban to these six countries started today, at midnight,” said Morente.

These countries are in addition to the 21 which are subject to travel restrictions earlier announced by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases [IATF] in an effort to prevent the entry of travelers infected by the new coronavirus strain.

Morente said that in view of the expnded restrictions, foreign passengers coming from or who have been to the six restricted countries within 14 days from their arrival in the Philippines shall be prohibited from entering the country beginning January 8 until January 15.

“However, Filipino citizens who have been to these countries within 14 days before arrival in the Philippines shall be allowed entry, but shall be referred to the airport’s one stop shop to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine,” the BI chief added.

Earlier, the government imposed a travel ban on travelers from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, The Netherlands, Hong Kong SAR, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and the United States.

BI Port Operations Division chief Atty. Candy Tan said that they are ready to implement travel restrictions set by Malacanang.

“We’ve seen very low numbers [of arrivals] during the holiday season, it was a period unlike any other. We’re expecting even lower numbers during the first quarter of 2021, given the latest development on the new strain of COVID-19,” she said.

She noted that no foreign passengers from the additional 6 countries have arrived since the implementation of the expanded travel restriction earlier today.

Meanwhile, the BI clarified that diplomats coming from the 27 restricted countries are allowed to enter the Philippines.

The BI-POD chief stated that foreign diplomats and international organizations such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations shall be exempted from the travel restriction.

“Those with valid 9(e) visas may be allowed entry without the need of an exemption or authorization from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). But those who present a diplomatic, official, or regular passport with no valid 9(e) visa may also be provided entry if they have a valid 9(a) visa and an authorization from the DFA,” Tan stated.

“Apart from foreign diplomats, those who are coming for medical and emergency cases, including their medical escorts, if any, shall also be allowed entry provided that they have an entry visa,” she added. By Willy M. Balasa