All flights coming from the United Kingdom will be barred from entering the Philippines, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced today, a move done to prevent the spread of a new coronavirus strain discovered in the UK.
The temporary ban on flights will start from Dec. 24 at 12:01am and end on Dec. 31, 2020.
“All passengers who have been in the UK within fourteen (14) days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely in transit, are also temporarily restricted from entering the country for the same period,” Roque said.
“[P]assengers already in transit from the UK and all those who have been to the UK within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before 12:01AM of December 24, 2020, shall not be subject to entry restriction but they would be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols,” he added.
These protocols include a 14-day quarantine at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City in Tarlac province. Travelers will have to complete the quarantine despite testing negative in a swab test.
About 200,000 Filipinos live in the UK, with many working as nurses and hospital porters for the National Health Service. Scores have become ill due to the coronavirus, with some Filipinos dying of the viral respiratory disease.
Roque’s announcement comes after a new and more infectious variant of the coronavirus was detected in the UK. Called B.1.1.7, it was detected in December from patients living in the southern parts of England.
The discovery of the new strain led some 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.
The relatively quick decision to ban UK flights stands in stark contrast to the actions displayed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the early days of the pandemic.
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 in February.
The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 462,815 recorded as of yesterday. The number includes 429,419 recoveries and 9,021 deaths.