India travel restrictions came too late – Treatment czar

By CNN Philippines Staff

The government failed to implement on time the travel restrictions on Filipinos returning from India, according to Health Undersecretary and Treatment Czar Leopoldo Vega.

“Definitely that was kinda late, in terms of the implementation of the travel ban,” Vega told CNN Philippines’ News Night on Tuesday.

His remarks came after the Philippines confirmed its first two cases of the B.1617 variant first detected in India. However, the two cases had no travel history to the South Asian nation, according to the Department of Health.

The first case from arrived on April 10 from Oman. He tested positive for COVID-19 on April 15 and completed isolation in a hotel in Metro Manila on April 26. He tested negative after another swab test on May 3. He is now in his hometown in Soccsksargen, the DOH reported.

The second patient is a 58-year-old seafarer from the United Arab Emirates who landed in the country on April 19. He was isolated in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga and was tagged as recovered on May 6. He has since returned home to the Bicol Region, the department added.

The government only imposed travel restrictions on India on April 29. But Vega said it’s important to point out that the two patients have already recovered, and health protocols were enforced.

“There was a good policy in terms of the quarantine and the protocols were set in terms of returning Filipinos coming from India or the Middle East,” he said.

Vega added that the close contacts of the two Filipinos during their flight to the Philippines had been traced.

However, there are still travelers from India who have yet to be checked for the presence of any variant. Of the five travelers who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in the Philippines, only one is eligible to be sent to the genome center. As for the 12 seafarers onboard the coronavirus-stricken MV Athens Bridge, 11 samples will be reviewed this week.

Vega said authorities should focus on tightening border controls and the strict implementation of the 14-day quarantine. Vaccination should also be ramped up, he added.

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