Three senators called on the government to implement a travel ban on travelers coming from Europe after a new strain of COVID-19 virus was detected in the United Kingdom.
According to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the Department of Health (DOH) should “act decisively and not procrastinate.”
“Recall that in February, DOH did not immediately ban travels from China, which directly caused the deadly local transmission of COVID-19,” Drilon said in a message.
In a separate message to reporters, Senator Joel Villanueva also wanted a temporary travel ban for travelers from Europe to ensure the new COVID-19 strain would not enter and spread in the Philippines.
“We must do everything to ensure the safety and protection of our people,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said, also supporting the travel ban.
According to initial data, the new strain of coronavirus could be “up to 70% more transmissible.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson already ordered new restrictions for London and southeastern England until December 30.
“According to the RITM, right now, they have not seen a new strain in the country based on their monitoring,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing.
Ban on travelers from Europe due to new virus strain urged
“But of course, we will be furthering this monitoring. We might need to strengthen our measures in the event there is a new strain in the country. But right now, there is none,” she added.
Vergeire said there is no need to implement stricter travel restrictions for now.
“Although, of course, we’re strengthening our measures to prevent the infection from reaching the country,” she said, referring to testing at ports of entry and quarantine of travelers.
As of December 21, a total of 461,505 COVID-19 cases had so far been recorded in the Philippines—429,207 of whom recovered and 8,957 died.
There are still 23,341 active cases in the country.