The United States government yesterday warned its citizens against traveling to the Philippines due to the country’s COVID-19 surge, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Filipinos.
In an advisory, the US State Department categorized the Philippines as Level 4, or “Do Not Travel.”
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for the Philippines due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country,” it said.
“There are restrictions in place affecting U.S. citizen entry into the Philippines. Visit the Embassy’s COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in the Philippines,” the State Department added.
The U.S. said early this week that it will increase the number of countries covered by its Level 4 advisory as COVID continues to skyrocket in other parts of the globe. Other countries covered by the Level 4 category are Chad, Kosovo, and Kenya, among others.
“This update will result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide,” the State Department said in a statement.
There are currently 127,006 active COVID cases in the Philippines, while 16,141 have died as of yesterday. The Duterte government has started inoculating medical workers, the elderly, and those with comorbidities, but it admitted that it has been struggling to procure additional doses of vaccines.
It was in September 2020 when President Rodrigo Duterte publicly blasted Western pharmaceutical companies for asking for advance payment for COVID vaccines before their effectiveness could be proven. He accused pharma companies of being money-grabbing capitalists and added that he preferred to get his vaccines from Russia or China.
The Philippines currently has vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac. The former was donated by the COVAX facility, while Sinovac’s CoronaVac was procured by the Philippines, with some donated doses thrown in by the Chinese government. Duterte’s team had already ordered from Sputnik V from Russia, but the doses have yet to arrive in the country.
The US purchased 800 million doses of vaccines in August 2020, ahead of most countries in the world. Experts say that vaccine nationalism could hinder the march to global herd immunity, with countries in the Global South unable to purchase potent drugs to innoculate their people. World leaders have urged the US and other nations to release their excess supplies of vaccines so that other countries could use them.
The Philippines is aiming to innoculate 70 million people this year, but as of today, only 1.5 million doses have been given, with more than 209,000 people getting dully vaccinated.
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