The Philippine government is mulling the possibility of banning travelers coming from the United Kingdom, a member of the Duterte administration said today, in light of the appearance of a new strain of the coronavirus that was detected in England.
“It’s time to consider [imposing] a temporary travel ban on the UK. We will still listen to the WHO (World Health Organization) because they said it’s nothing to worry about because that’s the [natural] progression of viruses. But we still need to be careful,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in his press briefing.
Roque said that the travel ban will be suggested to the Department of Transport, which is in charge of imposing such measures.
The new variant spreading in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, is said to be more contagious than the older strains. It was reportedly detected in patients as early as September but began to appear more frequently in southern parts of England in December.
The discovery of the new strain encouraged more than 40 countries to ban visitors coming from the UK. It also resulted in frenzied buying in groceries and supermarkets in the kingdom, as Britons grew fearful that they would run out of food due to the harsh restrictions.
Roque’s announcement comes a few months after the government committed a serious mistake in the early days of the pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte, a close ally of Beijing, initially refused to bar Chinese nationals from entering the Philippines, despite the fact that the coronavirus was first discovered in Hubei province.
From the president’s perspective, people who wanted to ban the Chinese were being hysterical and xenophobic. However, critics said Duterte was acting like Beijing’s lapdog for refusing to close the Philippines’ borders. Duterte later caved in to public pressure, but only after a Chinese national died of COVID-19 in Manila.
At present, Filipino travelers are barred from entering China due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 461,505 recorded as of yesterday. The number includes 429,207 recoveries and 8,957 deaths.