COVID-19

Philippines suspends flights from South Africa, 6 other countries over new variant

Pia Ranada
Philippines suspends flights from South Africa, 6 other countries over new variant

CHALLENGE FOR SOUTH AFRICA. A man gets his COVID-19 vaccine shot aboard a train in South Africa.

Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

(2nd UPDATE) The travel ban covering South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique ​ is effective 'immediately'

The Philippines suspended inbound flights from seven countries in Africa – including South Africa and Botswana – as a precaution against the new B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant.

This was announced by Cabinet Secretary and Acting Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles on Friday night, November 26.

The suspension for travelers from the seven countries “shall take effect immediately” and last until December 15, said Nograles.

The seven countries from which travel to the Philippines is barred are the following:

  • South Africa
  • Botswana
  • Namibia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Lesotho
  • Eswatini
  • Mozambique

Nograles said on Friday that the travel ban on five countries – Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique – was supposed to take effect on November 28, but clarified on Saturday, November 27, that the restrictions on all seven countries take effective immediately.

“The suspension of inbound international flights from South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe contained in IATF Resolution 150, supersedes the earlier Green List classification of the three abovementioned countries in IATF Resolution 148-A,” Nograles clarified on Saturday.

“Likewise, the temporary suspension of inbound international flights from Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique shall take effect immediately and until 15 December 2021,” he added.

The new rules go further compared to travel restrictions for past COVID-19 variants.

The government will now locate travelers who arrived from these countries “in the recent seven days prior” to the start of the travel suspension, meaning those who arrived from November 20 until November 26 for South Africa and Botswana.

This job was given to the Bureau of Quarantine and local governments, said Nograles. Two weeks of quarantine in a government-approved facility and an RT-PCR test await these travelers.

“These travelers shall be required to undergo full 14-day facility-based quarantine with RT-PCR test on the seventh day or upon location of the passenger, whichever is later, with the date of arrival as Day 1,” said Nograles.

The Philippines joins a growing list of countries that have imposed travel limitations out of fear over the B.1.1.529 variant.

Must Read

EXPLAINER: What we know about the COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa

EXPLAINER: What we know about the COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa

The variant was detected by South African scientists from November 14 to 16. Not much about it is known yet and scientists have yet to conclude if it is more transmissible than older variants or vaccine-resistant. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.