PH expands ban to Austria travelers over new COVID-19 variant

MANILA, Jan 9 (Mabuhay) — Foreign travelers from Austria are banned from entering the Philippines starting Jan. 10 until Jan. 15, Malacañang said Friday, after the new South African COVID-19 variant was detected in the European country.

“Relative to the detection of a new South African COVID-19 variant, the Office of the President, through the Office of the Executive Secretary, prohibits the entry to the Philippines of foreign passengers coming from or who have been to Austria within fourteen (14) days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines effective January 10, 2021, 12:01 AM, Manila time until January 15, 2021,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.

Roque added that foreign passengers traveling from or who’ve been to Austria within 14 days before their arrival in the Philippines before Jan. 10 will still be allowed to enter the country.

“However, they shall be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period, even if they obtain a negative RT-PCR test result,” he said.

Filipinos who are also traveling from or who’ve been to Austria within 14 days before arriving in the Philippines, whether before or after Jan. 10, will be able to enter the country. They are still, however, required to undergo a 14-day isolation.

Roque said Filipinos and foreigners merely transiting through Austria to the Philippines will not be considered as having come from or having been to the European country, as long as they stayed in the airport the whole time and were not cleared for entry by Austrian immigration authorities.

They will not be also required to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a facility. They can self-isolate at home after getting a negative RT-PCR test result upon arrival in the Philippines.

Transiting foreign passengers who left the airport or were cleared for entry by Austrian immigration authorities will be barred from entering the Philippines.

Transiting Filipino citizens who left the airport or were cleared for entry into Austria will be allowed to enter the Philippines but they need to undergo a facility-based 14-day quarantine period, even with a negative RT-PCR test result.

Unaccompanied Filipino minors coming from or who have been to Austria will be turned over to social workers who will ensure their safety during their 2-week isolation period.

British scientists expressed concern on Monday that COVID-19 vaccines may not be able to protect against the variant identified by South African genomics scientists and which has spread internationally.

South African researchers are studying the effects of mutations in the variant, including whether natural immunity from exposure to older variants provides protection against reinfection by the new variant.

But the coronavirus variant is unlikely to completely negate the immunizing effects of vaccines, a researcher said. (MNS)

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