Sadly the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) suspended the plan to reopen the country to fully vaccinated foreign tourists on Dec. 1 due to the threat of the Omicron Covid-19 variant from South Africa; which is said to be the “most heavily mutated.”
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the Omicron as a variant of concern, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the IATF approved recommendations to strengthen the COVID-19 response of local government units (LGUs), which includes:
Heighten their alert for increasing and clustering of cases and emphasize the need for active case finding
Immediately conduct contact tracing and isolation of cases detected from case surveillance among the community, including domestic and international travelers.
Use RT-PCR testing to allow for whole-genome sequencing of collected samples.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) also reiterated yesterday about the IATF’s move to temporarily suspend the international tourists’ entry into the country.
“The IATF deemed it necessary to suspend the entry of foreign tourists, given worldwide concerns over the Omicron variant,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement based on the report of PNA.
“For now, the current general travel restrictions stand. Only Filipinos, balikbayan, and those with long term visas from green and yellow list countries may be allowed entry,” he added.
Morente also said that travelers from red list countries within the last 14 days before arrival shall not be permitted to enter the Philippines.
Furthermore, BI Port Operations Division chief lawyer Carlos Capulong reminded airline companies to carefully inspect the document of travelers before boarding to ensure that only those allowed entry may fly to the country.
“We are conducting 100 percent passport inspection to ensure that we see the complete travel history of the arriving passengers,” he said.
Capulong said foreigners who are inadmissible but permitted to the board would be denied entry and warrant a penalty to the erring airline.
The IATF placed 14 countries under the red list due to the Omicron variant.