SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go said that existing health protocols and travel restrictions due to the pandemic may be further strengthened as Malaysia has identified a new COVID-19 strain from samples in neighboring Sabah state.
“Baka lalo pa nating paigtingin, istriktuhan pa ang entry, lalo na’t ngayon lang ito lumabas ‘yung sa Sabah,” Go said during a radio interview on Saturday, December 26.
“Baka pag-usapan po ng ating Pangulo with IATF and more than twenty medical experts, ipapatawag at papakinggan ng Pangulo. Itong mga experts ang nakakaalam at makakatulong sa (pag-address sa ) new strain na ito,” he added.
Go mentioned that Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan has already consulted with the IATF on how best to handle the emerging situation due to the proximity of Sulu province to Sabah.
“Ngayon ay nananawagan si Governor Tan sa IATF na tulungan sila sa anong gagawin matapos mabalitaan na may new strain sa Sabah, dahil 29 hours via boat lang po ang Sulu at marami ang pumapasok d’yan sa likod,” explained Go.
“So, maging istrikto pa tayo at bantayan ang coastal areas dahil ‘di natin makakaya na magkaroon pa ng ganitong kaso. Nahihirapan na nga tayo, panibagong health protocols na naman ang gagawin kung sakaling totoo itong new strain,” he added.
Meanwhile, pursuant to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) Resolution No. 90, Go explained during the interview that even transiting passengers from the U.K. are subjected to travel restrictions and stringent quarantine protocols.
“Ito po, pursuant to the IATF reso, nag-decide po ang Pangulo na magkaroon ng travel ban from U.K. including Filipinos. [This applies] to travellers who visited U.K. or [are] merely passing through U.K.,” said Go.
“Ibig sabihin, kahit dumaan ka lang doon, istrikto na ang quarantine protocols na gagawin kapag nakadaan ka sa U.K,” he further explained.
Go also said that the country should better prepare for the emergence of new COVID-19 strains given that it is a new disease.
“Bago po itong sakit na COVID-19. Habang may napapabalitang new strain, panibagong pag-aaral na naman ng health experts, ‘di lang dito sa ating bansa,” Go said.
“One step at a time tayo, mabuti nang handa tayo, pinag-aaralan po ang lahat. Uunahin po natin ang kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino sa magiging desisyon,” he added.
Earlier, Go confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte is cutting short his Christmas break in Davao City to meet with concerned government officials to discuss measures to address the new COVID-19 strain.
The new strain has caused a surge of new infections in the United Kingdom, prompting countries to shut their borders to the UK. Meanwhile, countries like Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands have already reported their first cases of the new strain.
The Philippines, on the other hand, has already imposed a temporary travel ban of flights from the United Kingdom since December 24 until the end of the year. However, outgoing flights are still allowed, following current exit protocols.
Go has also urged the public to strictly abide by necessary health protocols as they celebrate the holidays.
“Kasama natin ang ating pamilya, pero wala munang parties dahil delikado pa po habang wala pa pong vaccine, no time to celebrate, ‘wag muna tayong mag-celebrate, ang importante kasama natin ang pamilya sa isang bahay,” Go said, reminding everyone to wear masks and face shields, observe social distancing, and avoid unessential travels.
“Patuloy lang po tayong magdasal at magmalasakit sa kapwa. Alagaan natin ang ating kalusugan at panatilihing ligtas ang ating komunidad — iyan ang pinaka-importanteng mapapamahagi natin ngayong Pasko at pagpasok ng bagong taon,” he added.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered educational institutions to not conduct face-to-face classes yet given the emergence of new strains of COVID-19.
“We will implement the president’s instructions to recall limited face-to-face classes in the light of recent development,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said in response to the President’s order.
Earlier, Senator Go reiterated his firm reservation regarding the holding of pilot face-to-face classes in the country by January 2021 while there is still no approved safe and effective vaccine and amid the emergence of new strains of COVID-19.
He has consistently urged concerned authorities to reconsider such plan given the potential threat of COVID-19 and its new strains to the health and safety of the students, teaching staff and surrounding communities, without an approved vaccine to protect them.
“Same stand po ako diyan. Matagal ko nang sinasabi na habang wala pang vaccine ay ‘wag muna natin ipasubo ang mga bata. Dapat balikan at pag-aralan ng gobyerno ang polisiyang ito na bumalik sa face-to-face classes,” Go said during an interview on Saturday, December 26.
“Sa Mayo, matatapos naman na ang klase (school year). Ba’t ‘di na lang natin antayin? Alam naman natin na marami pang nangyayari. Nakakabahala kung bubuksan pa natin ang klase (na face-to-face),” he said.
“Unahin natin ang buhay at kaligtasan ng bawat Pilipino. A life lost is a life lost forever,” he stressed further.