Philippines suspends opening borders to tourists due to omicron variant

Bangkok, Nov 29 (EFE).- The Philippine authorities on Monday suspended plans to reopen borders to vaccinated tourists without the need for quarantine – a measure that was to enter into force on Dec.1 – over fears of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Last week, the government announced that vaccinated travelers from more than 150 countries, including the United States, Chile, Colombia and Spain, among others, could enter the Philippines without quarantine by presenting a negative Covid-19 test report.

However, the authorities have now revoked their decision due to the omicron variant, originally detected in South Africa and which the World Health Organization has expressed concerns about.

The government’s goal was to revive tourism, which in 2019 accounted for 11 percent of the GDP and fell from 8.2 million foreign visitors that year to 1.48 million in 2020.

On Sunday, the Philippines also announced a ban on the entry of foreign travelers who have been in seven African and seven European countries in the last two weeks in the face of the outbreak of the omicron variant.

This list of countries includes South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique on the African continent and Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy in Europe.

Filipinos who have traveled to these countries and whose access to the country has been approved may enter the country, but must undergo a 14-day quarantine at a place designated by the authorities.

This move follows that of other Southeast Asian countries, such as Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, which have restricted the entry into the country to travelers from southern African countries.

However, the Philippines has also included Europeans on the list, either because cases with the omicron variant have been detected in these countries or because the rate of infection is particularly high.

The Philippines, which has been progressively easing restrictions on movement in the face of falling cases, is the second most affected country by Covid-19 in Southeast Asia, behind Indonesia.

It has recorded a total of 2.83 million infections and more than 48,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. EFE


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