Philippines extends travel ban over new virus strain

Philippines | Saturday, January 16, 2021 | 08:00 am

The Philippines said Friday that a travel ban on foreigners from Japan and other countries where a new, probably more transmissible strain of the coronavirus has been reported, has been extended until the end of this month.

After its announcement Wednesday that just such a form had been observed in the world for the first time, the two-week extension comes as the Southeast Asian country scrambles to contain the pandemic. The ban, which came into force on Dec. 30 and was expected to end on Friday, initially targeted 20 countries and regions but has since extended to include mainland China in 33 countries and regions.

The Health Department said Wednesday that the latest strain circulating in Britain was found by a Filipino who had returned last week from the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, on Thursday, the country’s Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use, making it the country’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine.

Soon, probably in February, it is scheduled to arrive. According to local media, China’s Sinovac Biotech applied to the drug regulator for the emergency use of its vaccine in the Philippines on Wednesday. The government plans to procure 25 million doses of the Chinese vaccine, 50,000 of which, the media reported, are expected to arrive on Feb. 20. The Philippines had recorded a total of 496,646 virus cases as of Friday, including 9,876 fatalities.

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