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Senators hit ‘reckless’ lifting of travel ban on 10 countries

/ 08:17 PM September 06, 2021
Senators hit 'reckless' lifting of travel ban on 10 countries

Sen. Imee Marcos slams decision to lift travel ban as “reckless.” (Screen grab/Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Monday questioned what one of them described as the “reckless” lifting of travel restrictions on 10 countries amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

“Should be reconsidered. What is the reason? Is there an agenda?” Senate President Vicente Sotto III said in a message to reporters.

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Over the weekend, Malacañang announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to lift the travel restrictions on several countries starting Monday, September 6.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are among these countries.

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READ: Palace lifts travel ban on 10 countries starting Sept. 6

But Senator Nancy Binay said the lifting of the travel ban is “concerning,” adding that  “incongruent and discordant policies” will “weaken” the country’s “barriers” against COVID-19 and other “more deadly variants.”

“May dalang pangamba. Pataas na nga nang pataas ang kaso ng [COVID-19] sa Pilipinas, tapos parang [OK] lang sa IATF na luwagan ang travel restrictions kahit kulang pa tayo sa safety nets, at sablay pa rin ang border control measures natin,” Binay said.

(This brings worry. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the Philippines and it seems that it’s OK for the IATF to ease travel restrictions even if we still lack safety nets, and we are still struggling with our border control measures.)

“The incongruent and discordant policies weaken our barriers against [COVID-19] and other more deadly variants, and the biggest chance of the variants entering the country is poor border control,” she added.

‘Close-open’

Senator Risa Hontiveros also criticized the lifting of the travel ban as she pointed to the shrinking capacity of hospitals to cater to COVID-19 patients.

“Habang punung-puno ang mga ospital, tama ba namang lifting travel ban pa ang naging priority ng administrasyon? Ginagawa na nila itong laro. Para silang mga batang nagko-close-open ng ating airports,” she said.

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(While hospitals are filled to the brim, is it right for the administration to prioritize lifting the travel ban? They’re treating this like a game. They’re like kids playing close-open with our airports.)

She then expressed hope that the Bureau of Quarantine and other concerned agencies will properly impose safety protocols.

“Usapin ito ng kaligtasan at kalusugan ng mga kababayan natin kaya umaasa akong ipapatupad ng Bureau of Quarantine at iba pang ahensya ang mga protocol  to ensure the health of our people,” she added.

(We are talking about the safety and health of our countrymen that’s why I’m counting on the Bureau of Quarantine and other agencies to impose the protocols and ensure the health of our people.)

Senator Imee Marcos meanwhile pointed out that despite the precautions in place, the Philippines’ low vaccination rate makes the IATF’s recommendation “reckless, if [not] premature.”

As of Sept. 5, over 15 million Filipinos have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or 19.49 percent of the eligible Filipinos targeted for the government’s inoculation drive.

Marcos noted that while the United States’ vaccination rate is now at 54 percent, it “still restricts entry to non-immigrant travelers from India and lists Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, and the UAE as ‘Very High Risk’ countries, while Indonesia, Oman, and Sri Lanka are considered ‘High Risk.’”

According to Marcos, the United Kingdom, which has fully vaccinated about 65 percent of its population, puts Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand on its “Red List.”

“While we pray for a miracle and a cure, we must support healthcare capacities by paying government debts to hospitals and healthcare workers ASAP, conclude our own clinical trials for repurposed drugs like Ivermectin, include booster shots in the 2022 national budget, and increase funding for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine while a virology institute is yet to be built to develop Philippine-made vaccines,” she said

“On a personal level, let’s observe an immunity-boosting lifestyle regimen of getting adequate sleep, keeping hydrated, exercising regularly, quitting cigarettes and alcohol, taking Vitamin C and zinc, and making natural health food like malunggay and virgin coconut oil part of our diet,” she added.

While the Philippines lifted the ban on the 10 countries, international travelers coming from these countries shall comply with the appropriate entry, testing, and quarantine protocols, depending on the country’s approved “listing,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement Saturday.

The IATF, according to Roque, approved the adoption of “yellow” and “red” classifications, in addition to the “green list” of countries, jurisdictions, and territories.

On Monday, the Philippines logged another record-high of 22,415 additional COVID-19 infections.

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