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Tighter security against new COVID-19 strain urged

A House leader is calling for stricter health and safety protocols at the airports and in quarantine facilities following reports of a new strain of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas, chairman of the House committee on social services, said that government should impose stricter measures especially on foreigners entering the country.

“For everyone’s safety, I would like to emphasize the need to continue observing established protocols especially in our airports and other ports of entry and in quarantine facilities for arriving travellers,” Vargas said.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the ban on all flights from the United Kingdom for another two weeks starting December 31.

Based on reports, the new COVID-19 strain first reported in the UK is believed to be 70 percent more contagious. Health experts have warned it could lead to higher rates of infection.

The lawmaker said there is no need to “reinvent the wheel” in facing the new threat, and that government only needs to learn from previous oversights and reinforce successful measures.

“We must protect these quarantine facilities for travelers as much as our borders. Delikado kahit isang tao lang ang lumabas sa quarantine facility nang hindi pa tapos ang 14 na araw na quarantine period at hindi pa siguradong negatibo siya sa sakit,” Vargas stressed.

The solon also backed a Department of Health (DOH) recommendation for a 14-day quarantine at New Clark City for all travelers coming from countries where the new COVID-19 strain has been reported, regardless of the results of their RT-PCR test.

Aside from the UK, among the countries where there are confirmed cases of the new COVID-19 strain are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, and Japan.

“Mabuti nang safe. Sa tingin ko naman naiiintindihan ng lahat ang pangangailangan para sa ganitong set-up. But we need to properly communicate it to stakeholders who will be affected so they can make proper adjustments,” said Vargas.

Vargas also suggested greater visibility of law enforcers in quarantine facilities so that those under quarantine are deterred from violating health protocols.

He also appealed to the public not to be lax during the holiday season. At the same time, he appealed for calm and greater effort to counter disinformation that could cause panic.