The Philippines has imposed travel restrictions on travellers from South Africa, Botswana, and their neighboring countries "effective immediately" due to concerns over a new Covid-19 variant, a government official has said.
Cabinet Secretary and presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said the imposition of the "heightened border control measures" is to prevent the entry of the variant known as B.1.1.529, which is believed to have many mutations.
Nograles said the government's inter-agency Covid-19 task force approved Friday night the temporary suspension of inbound international flights from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, among others.
Passengers coming from or having been to these countries within the last 14 days prior to arrival shall be temporarily barred from entering the Philippines, Nograles said, adding the ban will stay until December 15.
Nograles said the government has directed the Bureau of Quarantine to coordinate with local government units "to locate travelers from these countries who may have arrived in the recent seven days before the temporary suspension of inbound travel."
Meanwhile, all passengers merely transiting through these countries will be allowed to enter but must comply with existing testing and quarantine protocols.
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported 863 new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections on Friday, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 2,830,387.
The Philippines has recorded less than 1,000 cases for three straight days. The DOH also reported that 142 more people died from Covid-19 complications, bringing the country's death toll to 48,017.