Foreigners and some returning citizens will be prevented from entering the Philippines under new measures announced by the country’s coronavirus task force as new variants help raise a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases in the Southeast Asian country.
Foreign citizens and those returning nationals who had not been working overseas will not be able to enter the country from March 20 until April 19, the coronavirus task force said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.
There are exemptions for accredited officials of foreign governments, Filipino workers returning from overseas and cases that are considered an emergency.
Passenger arrivals at Manila’s international airport have been capped at a maximum of 1,500 per day between March 18 and April 19.
Metro Manila, the sprawling capital, is the epicentre of the outbreak and a new two-week nighttime curfew has come into force this week. Authorities have also barred those under-18 years of age from leaving their homes.
The surge in cases has been linked not only to the emergence of new strains of COVID-19 but also to Filipinos failing to adhere to mask wearing, social distancing and other measures designed to curb the spread of the virus.
The health department on Monday reported more than 5,400 new cases of coronavirus – the highest single-day count since August 2020.
It has also confirmed the existence of a new variant, P.3, which was detected by Japanese health officials in a traveller arriving from the Philippines on Friday.
The Philippine Genome Centre (PGC) says it first detected the virus variant on February 6, but the health department did not announce it to the public at the time.
There have been more than 631,320 cases of COVID-19 in the country and nearly 13,000 people have died.
This story has been amended to clarify that the PGC identified the P3 variant on February 6.