DOH to recommend travel restrictions on countries with new COVID-19 variant

The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday, December 28, said it would recommend expanding travel restrictions to all countries with cases of the new COVID-19 variant.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart on Monday morning, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the government coronavirus task force will meet to discuss the measures the country needs to implement against the new variant of the novel coronavirus.

"This is urgent. We all know that the decisions will be critical and that the decisions will be immediate," Vergeire said.

"We're going to recommend that we expand the restrictions in our borders to include the other countries that have these variants identified already," she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has extended for another two weeks the ban on flights from the United Kingdom (UK) – which was supposed to expire on December 31 – over a new, possibly more infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2.

The new variant also prompted more than 50 other countries to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

Over the weekend, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stoked public ire after saying that he does not recommend a travel ban unless there is community transmission of the new COVID variant in the country of origin.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said on Sunday, December 27, that imposing a travel ban at this point is "common sense."

"Ilang buhay pa ba ang isusugal natin bago tayo matuto? Bakit pa tayo maghihintay na mataranta pa tayo at maubos na naman ang mga kama sa ospital?" Hontiveros asked.

(How many lives do we have to gamble before we learn? Why do we have to wait to get rattled and for our hospital beds to run out before we act?)

The new variant of the virus emerged earlier this month in Britain and has already reached several European countries, as well as Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.