A woman receives her first dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine during a house to house vaccination in Manila. FIle / Reuters
Manolo B. Jara, Correspondent
The Philippines government on Wednesday extended for another two weeks until July 31 the travel ban imposed on seven countries to curb spread of COVID 19 Delta variant which the World Heath Organisation (WHO) warned has now afflicted more than 104 nations, a top Malacanang Palace official reported on Wednesday.
In a related development, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has recommended to President Duterte his approval for the inclusion of Indonesia in the travel ban.
"We are awaiting the response from the OP (Office of the President) regarding the decision of the IATF on whether or not we will extend the travel ban to Indonesia," which is being besieged by the Delta variant, Duque explained.
Meanwhile, Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, told a media briefing that the government extended until July 31 its decision to ban inbound travel from seven countries as part of the strict border controls being implemented to prevent spread of Delta variant.
The seven countries covered by the ban which ended on July 15, Roque said, are India where the Delta variant was first discovered, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka as well as Oman and the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier, the mostly overseas Filipino workers in these countries complained that the ban has adversely affected their return to their homeland. But the government assured that it has now allowed "special commercial flights" to ferry them back to the Philippines.
The Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that it detected at least 19 cases of the Delta variant in the country. It added most of the cases were Filipino crewmen of a vessel that sailed into India at the height of the pandemic to deliver cargo.
On Wednesday, Tedrios Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO chief, expressed grave concern and warned the Delta variant has emerged as the dominant COVID strain now wreaking havoc in more than 104 countries.
"The Delta variant," Ghebreyesus said, "is ripping across the world at a scorching pace, driving a spike in cases and deaths. Delta is now in more than 104 countries and we expect it to be the dominant COVID 19 strain circulating worldwide."
At the same time, Secretary Carlito Galvez, the vaccine czar, announced also on Wednesday the arrival of more than one million doses of Sinovac vaccines procured by the governnment from China.
Galvez who met the arrival of the vaccines at the airport said these would be allocated and administered nationwide "mostly for second doses" especially in areas where an alarming spike in COVID infections has been monitored.
Galvez said that by the end of July, the government would receive a total of 16 million doses against the virus. Of the total, he said, seven million doses came from the Philippines share of the COVAX facility set up by WHO; two million doses from bilateral donations; and the rest from vaccines procured by local government units like towns and cities as well as private firms.
The regulation will be in effect from midnight of Dec.29 to Jan.15 and covers Filipinos and foreigners arriving from the “flagged countries,” the transport ministry told reporters in a group text message.
The countries imposed with total travel ban include Botswana, Brazil, Colombia, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The Philippines on Tuesday included Taiwan in its expanded list of countries and territories covered by its travel ban arising from its determined move to help prevent the spread of the dreaded coronavirus (nCOV) that has already resulted in rising fears and alarm worldwide.
At least 20 confirmed or preliminary positive cases were found in a public housing block in the Kwai Chung neighbourhood, said health chief Sophia Chan. "Clearly there is a community outbreak and the situation is worrying," Chan told reporters.
The mentally disturbed man also attacked a security guard and a food delivery driver. Investigations showed that he suffers from severe mental disorders.
The Abu Dhabi Police also warned some motorists about their negative behaviour, especially young motorists who disturb residents and drive recklessly on roads.