Philippines bans travellers from 20 countries

MANILA • The Philippines has decided to ban travellers from 20 nations that have reported the new Covid-19 strain, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said yesterday.

The travel ban covers Singapore, Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, the Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, he said.

The ban started at midnight yesterday and will be in place till Jan 15. It does not apply to the whole of China, just Hong Kong, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a separate briefing.

Filipino workers returning from these places are exempted from the ban, said the labour chief, who expects as many as 100,000 more Filipinos to return.

The new strain – first detected in England – has not been found in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health.

Daily infections rose by 886 yesterday, the third straight day when the new case count is below 1,000 as testing also falls below target.

With a total of more than 471,000, the Philippines has the second highest cases in South-east Asia, next only to Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Manila has approved Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ application to hold a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine in the country, Food and Drug Administration director-general Eric Domingo said yesterday. “In the next few weeks, we will be able to begin clinical trials,” Mr Domingo said.

The trial applications from Chinese firms Sinovac Biotech and Sichuan Clover Biopharmaceuticals, and Pfizer’s application for emergency use for its vaccine are still under review, he said.

The new variant, which British scientists have called “VUI – 202012/01”, has renewed fears about the virus that has killed over 1.7 million people worldwide.

Separately, the Philippine government has sought another 540 billion pesos (S$15 billion) in financial support from the central bank to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said.

In October, the central bank agreed to lend the government 540 billion pesos. That followed a decision in March to buy 300 billion pesos of government securities to help handle the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic



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