DOT backs travel ban to keep new coronavirus variant out

DOT backs travel ban to keep new coronavirus variant out
This Dec. 24, 2020 photo shows passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Tourism on Wednesday expressed its full support for the implementation of strict entry protocols in light of the new coronavirus variant.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier said the new strain may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old one.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that while the agency favors the resumption of inbound travel to stimulate economic recovery, healthy and safety of the citizens remained to be a priority.

“We value above all else the health and safety of our people. In this light, we ask for the understanding and cooperation of inbound travelers in adhering to the measures put in place to ensure the protection of both guests and local communities,” Puyat said in a statement.

After fickle and contradicting announcements from government officials, the national government finally approved “the prohibition from entering the Philippines effective December 30, 2020, 12:01 AM until January 15, 2021, of all foreign travelers coming from, or transiting through, the following countries/areas listed below or who have been to the same places mentioned below within 14 days preceding arrival in the Philippines."

The areas included in the list are:

  1. Denmark
  2. Ireland
  3. Japan
  4. Australia
  5. Israel
  6. The Netherlands
  7. Hong Kong, China
  8. Switzerland
  9. France
  10. Germany
  11. Iceland
  12. Italy
  13. Lebanon
  14. Singapore
  15. Sweden
  16. South Korea
  17. South Africa
  18. Canada
  19. Spain

The travel ban came days after the DOT launched the Balikan Ang Pilipinas campaign that encourages Balikbayans to travel to the Philippines this holiday season and visit the country's sites and destinations with their loved ones.

Puyat, on Monday, however, said in view of the new COVID-19 variant, the DOT will respect the decision of the coronavirus task force to restrict the entry of tourists.

DOT has prepared health and safety guidelines for the various tourism enterprises “to ensure the safety and protection of visitors as well as the workers and host communities.” The tourism enterprises include attractions, restaurants, accommodation establishments, tourist land transport, travel and tour operations, tour guides, island and beach destinations, dive establishments, staycation hotels, spa, and meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) facilities.

The department again called on tourism destination managers, enterprises and host communities to reinforce the minimum health and safety standards in their respective areas such as the 14-day quarantine in hotels that serve as quarantine facilities.

“We put our full trust in our frontliners at the international ports of entry as well as in our local government units (LGU) to strictly carry out these measures at borders and Triage points,” she said.

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