By Rey Anthony Chiu, PIA-Bohol | 01:11 PM March 23, 2021
With the Philippines getting its highest coronavirus disease-positive cases (COVID-19 positive) in the last six months, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF EID) has ruled for the temporarily suspension of travel into the Philippines of foreigners.
In its Memorandum Circular No. 5, series of 2021, by recommendation of the National Task Force against COVID (NTF against COVID), the IATF has limited the number of inbound international passengers to 1,500 a day while temporarily suspending the entry of foreign nationals and ROFs who are non
OFWs starting 1:00 AM of March 20, 2021 until April 19, 2021.
In its succeeding Resolution No. 103 series of 2021 dated March 18, 2021, the IATF EID still too to the NTF recommendation but modified its position and now allows the return of Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) even those who are non-Overseas Filipino Workers (non-OFWs).
The new resolution also moved the effectivity of the entry ban from March 20 to March 22, until April 21, 2021.
The memorandum however exempts those diplomats, members of international organizations and their dependents as long as they hold 9(e) visas, or 47(a)(2) visas as non-immigrants granted by presidential invites, medical repatriation and their escorts as endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-UMMWA) or the Office of the Workers Welfare Administration.
Also exempted from the temporary suspension are foreign seafarers under Green Lanes, as long as they hold 9(c) visas at time of entry, distressed ROFs duly endorsed by the DFA-UMMWA) and emergency and other humanitarian and other analogous cases as approved by the National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19.
The memorandum was approved a day after the COVID cases in the Philippines reached 5,404 in a day, March 15.
According to NTF COVID-19 Chairperson Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the significant rise in cases in the Philippines which was noted since the start of the year could be attributed to the increased local transmission due to non-compliance of the minimum health and safety protocols during gatherings, increased mobility among people, delays in the detection and isolation of infected patients and the entry of highly transmissible Sever Acute Respiratory Coronavirus (SARS COV) variants.
The measure is backed by data which it culled from the Department of Health.
As to the DOH, the sustained bio-surveillance of the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center and the UP National Institute of Health and the DOH have confirmed additional cases of the variants of concern, citing 59 new cases of the B.1.1.7 (UK variant), 32 more cases positive for B.1.351 (South African variant) and one case for the P.1 (Brazilian variant).
Of the 59 cases with the UK variant, 30 are local cases, 18 are from ROFs and the remaining cases are still currently being verified as to their being local or imported.
With the old cases and the new ones, the total UK variant count in the country may reach 177.
Moreover, among the 32 additional cases with the South African variant, 21 have been traced as local transmission cases, one brought in by an ROF and 10 cases are still under study to pinpoint their location, which also put the total South African variant cases in the Philippines to 90.
An ROF from Brazil brought in the new Brazilian variant.
The NTF COVID move is just among the efforts to prevent the entry of more SARS COV variants from other countries and the further rise in cases. (rahchiu/PIA-7/Bohol)