COVID-19 tests eyed for travelers from China | Inquirer News

COVID-19 tests eyed for travelers from China

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has recommended the tightening of travel restrictions for people coming from China which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista on Wednesday floated the idea of requiring testing for travelers from China as a safety measure, saying that the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would iron out the travel guidelines.


“I think we should be very cautious,” he said on the sidelines of an event in Pasay City. Recent reports show that COVID-19 cases in China have been spiking anew, with estimates reaching at least a million per day.

Bautista said they would also look at how other countries were responding to the situation, noting that “other Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries are also cautious in accepting Chinese visitors.”


Although no commercial flights from the Philippines to China are available for now, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is set to resume regular flights for the Manila-Xiamen route starting on Jan. 13, 2023.

The flag carrier will start with one flight on Fridays although this is expected to increase over time with the further easing of mobility restrictions. Bautista, who previously headed PAL, said that offering such flights were “okay” as long as proper travel protocols would be implemented.

The Department of Tourism earlier said that it was preparing for the return of Chinese tourists as it projected 4.8 million in foreign tourist arrivals in the country next year with the return of travel confidence and the easing of mobility restrictions.

Stable hospital admissions

Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases in China, Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. president Dr. Jose Rene de Grano said that locally, private hospitals have remained low risk in terms of COVID-19 admission.

“We haven’t noticed much of an increase. We’re waiting after these festivities, and maybe by the first week of January, we will see if it will really increase…,” he said at the Laging Handa briefing.

De Grano, however, asked President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.not to lift the state of public health emergency just yet despite the country being under low-risk classification in terms of COVID-19 infection rate, saying it would affect the government’s pandemic response.

“Many of our countrymen will be affected because… usually, these benefits that… we get from our Department of Health, from our local government units, these are dependent on the state of emergency,” he said.


Former President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency throughout the country on March 8, 2020, due to the pandemic. To remain “in force and effect” until withdrawn or lifted by the President, the declaration allows national and local governments to “utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

De Grano warned that health-care workers might lose their COVID-19 allowance should the declaration be lifted. “Maybe for the next three months or first quarter of next year, we’ll observe and monitor. And when we see it going down, then maybe that’s the time we can really remove the state of emergency,” he said.

Very consequential

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said that lifting the state of emergency would also invalidate the emergency use authorization granted to vaccines and medications used to treat COVID-19.

De Grano said that many of the patients admitted to private hospitals now were those suffering from hypertension and diabetes.

He warned that cases of asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses would increase during the New Year celebration.“Normally, it really increases, especially right after the festivities and the lighting of fireworks. Because you know, if you will note, pollution is really increasing because of the firecrackers,” he said.

De Grano advised those with asthma and respiratory illnesses to continue wearing face masks, especially those who would watch fireworks displays. INQ


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China’s healthcare system put to the test as COVID-19 curbs fade

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