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PH suspends flights from South Africa, other countries with new COVID-19 variant until Dec. 15

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Nov 27, 2021 11:18 am

The Philippines temporarily suspends inbound flights from countries with local cases of the new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant, Omicron, recently declared by the World Health Organization as a “variant of concern.”

Cabinet Secretary and acting Palace spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement Friday, Nov. 26, that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved the temporary ban on the following countries and is effective immediately until Dec. 15:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Estiwani
  • Lesotho
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe

Travelers who are coming from or have been to these countries within the last 14 days prior to arrival will be temporarily barred from entering the Philippines.

Nograles said the Bureau of Quarantine, in close coordination with local government units, was directed to trace travelers from the said countries who may have arrived in the recent seven days prior to the imposition of the “heightened border control measures.”

The abovementioned passengers will be required to undergo full 14-day facility-based quarantine with RT-PCR test on the seventh day upon location of the passenger, whichever is later, with the date of arrival as the first day.

Nograles said those who are already in transit and those who have been to the said countries within 14 days who arrive before 12:01 a.m. of Nov. 28, will not be barred from entering the country. 

Instead, they will undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols, which include a 14-day facility-based quarantine despite a negative RT-PCR result. 

Meanwhile, passengers, whether Filipinos or foreigners, who are just transiting through said countries are not considered to have come from or visited the said countries if they just stayed in the airport and were not cleared for entry by the immigration authorities. 

The Palace’s statement came the same day it announced the Philippines is set to welcome fully vaccinated foreign tourists from Dec. 1 to 15, almost two years after shutting down its borders.

Several countries—including those in the European Union, the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom—have already imposed temporary travel bans on some southern African nations.

Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa, has now also been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.