Most ASEAN countries have already opened their borders while others are getting ready to open
their tourist attractions to foreign visitors. However, with the emergence of the new
Covid virus mutation, Omicron variant, it seems that tourism will have to wait for an indefinite time.
The Philippines Bans Additional Flights to Curb Omicron Variant Transmission
The Philippines banned inbound flights from seven more countries on Sunday, aside from the seven African countries announced previously. These new countries are Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) included them in the “red list” from November 28 to December 15.
Filipinos may return to the country through government or nongovernment-initiated repatriation and “Bayanihan flights.” Still, they are subject to the current entry, testing, as well as protocols for red list regions.
“Hopefully, the Omicron will not be able to [reach] us as fast as we have seen in Europe. As much as possible, we can minimize the effects of Omicron by preventing or delaying [its entry] to the country, but it is very imminent,” said Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19
Entry for Vaccinated Tourist Temporarily Suspended Due to Omicron Variant Threat
The Asian country temporarily suspended the entry of fully vaccinated tourists. Its objective is to prevent the Omicron variant from spreading like wildfire.
At the moment, there are no reports of the new variant in the Philippines. However, the decision to suspend allowing even fully vaccinated tourists will take a toll on the country’s dwindling economy.
Tourism is one of the nation’s most significant economic drivers. It’s responsible for almost 13% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. During that period, over eight million people visited the country, according to official data. However, it dropped to 5.4% last year as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc worldwide.
Backtracking Older COVID-Positive Samples
The Philippine Genome Center will retrace older COVID-positive samples. Its purpose is to track down likely cases of the Omicron variant. According to PGC executive director Cynthia Saloma, the biosurveillance team will study samples from early November.
Saloma said that the country needs to backtrack samples from early November and forward. It includes all other samples entering the country. So far, no Omicron variant has been detected after analyzing 18,000 samples.
Be Safe than Sorry
The new threat from the Omicron variant urged the Philippine government to launch a relentless inoculation drive. It aims to vaccinate nine million people in just three days. Thousands of volunteers and security forces will help facilitate the campaign.
Three million vaccinations a day is almost four-fold the average 829,000 daily jabs in November. Galvez said that it’s better to be prepared for the Omicron variant.
Nearly 35.6 million people had their shots, equivalent to a third of its 110 million population. The Philippines targets to vaccinate 54 million people by the end of this year and 77 million more by March 2022.
The Omicron variant originated in South Africa. It has now spread to Australia, Italy, Botswana, Denmark, Israel, Belgium, Germany, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands. Other countries worldwide are now rushing to impose travel bans once again to prevent the new variant from spreading. It isn’t clear whether it is more contagious compared to other variants. Also, it’s still uncertain if it causes a more serious disease.
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