A woman wearing a protective suit walks with a cart at the arrival area of Manila's International Airport on Wednesday. AP
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
The Philippine government has decided to temporarily ban the entry of foreigners and limit the entry of returning Filipinos at Manila’s international airport to 1,500 daily as it struggles to contain an alarming surge in coronavirus infections.
A government body dealing with the pandemic said the monthlong travel restrictions would start from Saturday and aim to prevent the spread into the country of coronavirus strains from other countries which are believed to be more contagious. Among those to be allowed limited entry are homebound Filipino workers (OFWs).
Philippine Airlines said it would announce some flight cancellations to comply with the temporary restriction.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the chairman of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said he signed a memorandum circular imposing the limit with effect from March 20 to April 18, adding it also aimed to prevent the spike due to the entry of the more infectious virus UK, South African and Brazilian variants into the country.
Passengers wait for their bags at the arrival area of Manila's International Airport on Wednesday. AP
Carlito Galvez, the vaccine czar, explained: "Our recommendation is that only 1,500 foreigners and OFWs would be banned, considering that we have seen a rise in the cases of the new variants. We have seen OFWs, returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and foreigners coming in so we decided to restrict our inbound passengers."
Current inbound international capacity at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila is at 3,000 passengers daily, according to the Manila International Airport Authority.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration warned that it would penalise airlines found to be exceeding the allowed capacity, but it did not elaborate. The country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) also said carriers would need to cancel a number of international flights to and from Manila in compliance with the order.
At the same time, Health Secretary Francisco Duque warned that if the country could not stop the rise in COVID-19 infections, the cases would surpass the peak it reached in the third quarter of 2020.
Duque also said the rise in cases arose from increased movement and the reopening of the economy but Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, attributed it to non-compliance of the people of the minimum health measures like wearing of face masks and face shields, observance of social distancing and the ban on mass gatherings.
"It is not just a mission that brought back stranded and distressed citizens from around the world, but Vande Bharat has been a mission of hope and happiness, of letting people know that they will not be left behind even in the most testing times," Puri said.
Severe weather is compounding the travel chaos in the United States, with storms expected to wreak havoc on roadways in the country's west, though they brought a white Christmas weekend to Seattle and parts of California.
All the passengers detected as positive in RAT on arrival at the airports will self isolate themselves for 10 days at their homes, decides the Pakistan's National Command and Operation Centre.
"Surveys of air passengers indicate that pre-departure testing is a leading factor in the decision not to travel internationally. People simply are unwilling to take the chance that they will be unable to return to the US," they wrote.
The guidance doesn't necessarily apply to government agencies, but according to the report, citing a source familiar with White House plans, it may send guidance to some agencies and departments in the future.
The authority stated, according to the decision on the control of entry and residence of foreigners, that in order to obtain an entry visa to visit a friend or relative, the foreigner coming to the country must be a friend or relative of a citizen, regardless of the degree of kinship, and that the foreigner coming to the country must be a first-degree or first-degree relative of a resident residing in the country.
An official associated with the case said, “Trump will be fingerprinted, a mug shot will be taken, investigators will complete arrest paperwork and do a check to see if he has any outstanding criminal charges or warrants. That all happens away from the public.”