No exemption in travel, health protocols: Go

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    THERE are no exemptions to travel restrictions imposed by the government to prevent the entry of the new COVID-19 strain, Sen. Christopher Go said yesterday as he called for a stricter implementation of the policy following reports that certain individuals have sought coverage exemption from existing travel and health protocols.

    “Mayroong balita na may iilang humihingi ng exemption sa travel ban o sa quarantine measures. Huwag niyo unahin ang sarili ninyo, unahin niyo ang kapakanan ng nakararami. Walang mapapalusot kahit sino. Pantay pantay ang patakaran. Walang pili — mayaman o mahirap. Para naman ito sa kapakanan ng bawat Pilipino. Buhay ng bawat isa ang unahin natin (I have received reports saying that certain individuals have been asking for exemption in the travel ban or with the imposed quarantine measures. You must consider the safety and health of our people. Authorities must not let them slip away. We must impose travel restrictions to everyone because this is for the good of everybody),” Go said.

    The senator did not name the individuals who have supposedly asked for the exemption privilege but said he has already informed President Duterte about the reports.

    “Kinausap ko ang Pangulo at magbibigay siya ng babala (I already talked to the President.

    He will issue a stern reminder),” he said.

    He added: “May nag-report sa amin na gusto lumusot sa quarantine. Kung may mapatunayan na korap o nagpapalusot, dapat pasagasaan kayo ng eroplano! (We have received reports of attempts of some individuals to be exempted. If the reports are proven true, those guilty of conniving or have been corrupted deserve to be run over by an airplane!)”

    The Philippines has suspended all flights from 21 countries affected by the new COVID-19 strain. The countries include the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lebanon, Singapore, Sweden, South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Spain, and United States. The restrictions apply to all foreigners, regardless of the visa category they are under.

    Go said there is a need to expand the list further as reports have been coming in about the presence of the new variant come in more countries.

    News reports indicate that the new COVID-19 strain, named as B.1.1.7, has already spread to 34 countries from an initial list of 21 countries.

    Health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said six more countries may soon be included in the list of those affected by travel restrictions.

    “We have 6 countries, where we got our confirmation from their government website,” she said, adding: “But from the focal point from each country, we are not receiving any responses. We are having a hard time confirming them.”

    The Department of Health (DOH) has yet to release the names of the six countries.

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday said the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are expected to come up with a joint recommendation on the status of travel from China and Vietnam.

    Roque said President Duterte, who is meeting the members of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in Davao City on Monday night, is expected to act immediately on the recommendations once it is submitted.

    Vergeire said the DOH will know if the new variant has already entered its shores or not by Wednesday or Thursday.

    Vergeire they are hoping to get the result of the gene sequencing being done by the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) by the middle of the week. “The PGC has already received samples. They were able to start the process. Hopefully, by Wednesday or Thursday, we will get the results already,” she said.

    She said the swab samples came from travelers from countries with the confirmed UK variant of COVID-19, who tested positive. “We sent them those that were found positive for COVID-19. They cannot process anything if it is negative,” she added.

    In addition, the health official said they also decided to include those that were tested in November and December in the gene sequencing. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Gerard Naval