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Ban on inbound HK travel proposed

The Omicron variant, according to Duque, has the potential to reverse the downward trend of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines

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The Department of Health (DoH) has recommended the ban on travelers from Hong Kong after the detection there of the B.1.1.529 or the Omicron “variant of concern.”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they informed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea of the proposal to prevent the variant from entering the country.

“Yes, it is also being considered. That is why we have written and recommended to the Executive Secretary if it could be immediately acted upon for us to ensure the variant will not enter the country,” Duque said.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) has approved the temporary suspension of flights from South Africa, Botswana, and other countries with local cases of the B.1.1.529 variant, weeks before the Christmas season.

“There is really a need to address the concern because we are in an unusual season, it’s Christmas season. It is really necessary to study it carefully. We hope that within the morning we can get some answers,” Duque said.

Duque said the DoH is awaiting the IATF’s amended recommendation within the day.

“Yes, it was upon my prodding of IATF members to ban travelers from select African countries. Also, our experts’ group will amend yesterday’s recommendation for Hong Kong given the recent declaration by the WHO (World Health Organization) of the B.1.1.529 as a variant of concern,” Duque said.

Likewise, Duque said many overseas Filipino workers want to come home for Christmas.

The Omicron variant, according to Duque, has the potential to reverse the downward trend of Covid-19 cases in the Philippines.

“Covid-19’s downward trend might change if we find out that the variant is dangerous. We have to take precautions. Proper precaution includes stricter international border controls.” Duque said.

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