SENATOR and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go urged the government to implement fully the strictest border control measures and necessary travel restrictions to avoid the further spread of COVID-19 amid the emergence of new variants of the disease which is considered more infectious, according to health experts.
“Dapat tayong maging handa na, ‘wag na nating antayin na may kumalat pa, lalong-lalo na sa ating bansa. Kung may balitang may new strain sa isang lugar, ayaw nating pumasok ‘yan dito … lessons learned na tayo,” Go said during a radio interview on Monday, December 28.
Moreover, Go supported the call to consider imposing a strict travel ban for those whose country of origin is considered high risk and has already recorded community transmission of the new variant of COVID-19.
“We must consider imposing a strict travel ban for those whose country of origin is considered high-risk … para sa akin, kung meron pong nababalita na new variant do’n sa lugar nila, ibig sabihin red flag na po ‘yan,” explained the Senator.
Go said that this pandemic continues to evolve as it poses new threats to the lives of Filipinos. He emphasized that “our continued efforts must not falter. Every decision that the government makes must be based on good science and must uphold the welfare and well-being of Filipinos wherever they may be in the world.”
“Kung gaano kabilis kumalat at mag-evolve ang sakit na ito, mas mabilis at mas akma dapat ang mga mekanismo natin upang maprotektahan ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino,” he said.
“Mas mabuting paigtingin pa natin. Kung kailangang i-ban, i-ban po natin. ‘Wag na nating antayin pa na dumating dito sa ating bansa. Kung may nabalitaan tayong mga bansa na mayro’n nang kaso, do not wait. Ibig sabihin, kahit [isang] kaso lang ay pag-aralan na kaagad,” he said.
Go disclosed that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases is expected to announce a new set of guidelines on border patrol and other necessary measures within the day after convening an emergency meeting last Saturday, December 26.
During the meeting, President Rodrigo Duterte had extended the initial two-week ban on travelers from the United Kingdom to mid-January. He also ordered all arrivals from countries with reported cases of the variant, such as Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine, regardless of the RT-PCR test result.
Despite these stringent measures, the Senator stressed that the country must be ready to support and accept returning overseas Filipinos, especially those in distress who have lost their jobs and are at risk of being stranded abroad.
“Kung meron man tayong papayagang pumasok sa bansa, ito ay ang ating mga kababayang OFWs … dahil kawawa po sila na-stranded sa ibang bansa at gustong bumalik dito sa atin. Wala na po silang trabaho, Pasko at new year pa. Sila po ‘yung alagaan natin nang mabuti,” he said, before adding that necessary health and safety protocols must still be observed.
“’Yung ilalagay diyan sa (New) Clark (City) muna, quarantine, at makauwi po sa kanilang probinsya. Siguraduhin nating negative sila para hindi makahawa naman po. Pero ‘wag natin silang pabayaan na naka-stranded sa ibang bansa, lalong-lalo na ‘yung may mga new variant na,” he reiterated.
The new variant was discovered in the UK in mid-September and has become the dominant variant of the coronavirus in many parts of the country. It is 71% more transmissible. However, there is no evidence that suggests it is more fatal. The UK variant has spread rapidly across Europe with Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands reporting new infections. Australia and Singapore have also reported cases of the said variant.