The Philippines extended the travel ban again for travelers from India and six other countries until July 15 to keep the more infectious Delta COVID-19 variant from entering the Philippines, Malacañang announced on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser, the extended travel ban covers India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The travel ban, which was set to end on June 30, would stay in place until July 15.
"Isa itong proactive measure sa patuloy na pagpapatupad ng international border control dahil sa Covid-19 Delta variant," Roque said.
(This is one of the proactive measures amid the implementation of international border control because of Covid-19 Delta variant)
However, some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been stuck abroad due to the travel ban.
"Alam ko pong napakahirap… Pero hinihingi po namin ang inyong pasensya at pag-intindi. Ito naman po ay isang napatunayan nang paraan para mapigilan po ang pagpasok ng mas nakakahawa at mas nakakamatay na Delta variant at Delta Plus variant," said Roque.
(I know it's very difficult. But we ask for your patience and understanding. This is a proven way to stop the entry of the more contagious and deadlier Delta and Delta Plus variants.)
Roque clarified that outbound passengers, including OFWs, are still allowed to go to India and six other countries.
“Merong din pong mga OFWs na papunta siguro sa ilang lugar diyan. Hindi naman po sila pinagbabawalan pero pinag-iingat lang po, he said.
(Some OFWs will also go to some places there. They are not prohibited, but they should be careful.)
The travel ban also exempts repatriation efforts. Officials earlier said that OFWs who wish to return to the Philippines must contact the embassy or their manning agencies .to arrange mercy flights.
The country has extended travel restrictions on India and the six other countries four times.
According to reports, the Delta coronavirus variant is 60 percent more infectious than the Alpha variant and is the cause of the surge in other countries' cases.
A person who contracts the Delta variant could infect five to eight people, Dr. Alethea de Guzman, officer-in-charge director of the Department of Health's epidemiology bureau, said.
Last week, India declared a new coronavirus variant called Delta Plus to be of concern. Authorities said that nearly two dozen cases had been detected in three states.
The Philippines has so far reported a total of 17 Delta cases that originated in India.
The country initially detected 13 cases of Delta Covid-19 variant, all involving returning Filipino travelers. The four new cases are also returning Filipinos.
The Philippines has maintained the mandatory use of face shields in public areas as an additional precaution against the Delta variant.