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Phil health chief recommends flight ban on HK over Omicron

28 November 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap


Duque wants a travel ban on HK imposed immediately

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said in a TV interview Saturday that he has recommended a ban on travelers from Hong Kong after two imported cases of the new coronavirus variant, B.1.1529 or Omicron, were detected in the city.

Duque said in the Dobol B News TV interview that he has sent a letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea asking for a quick response to his request to make sure the Omicron, which has just been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, does not enter the Philippines.


He said there is an urgent need to impose a ban as many overseas Filipino workers traditionally go home for Christmas.

The country’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid has already approved the suspension of flights from South Africa and Botswana and neighboring countries Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe to prevent the mutant strain entering the Philippines.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, has put all of the said countries under Category A or high-risk countries, which means only residents may enter from these places, and they have to spend 21 days in quarantine.

On Saturday, the city’s government tightened the measures further by stipulating that from today, all new arrivals from the eight South African countries will have to spend their first seven days at a quarantine center, during which they will be tested every day and their health conditions monitored.


After completing the seven-day quarantine at the government-run facility, “they will be allowed to finish the rest of the compulsory quarantine requirement at the designated quarantine hotel which they have reserved,” said the statement.

“They are also required to undergo testing on the 9th, 12th, 16th and 19th day and another compulsory testing in a community testing centre on the 26th day of arrival at Hong Kong.”

All arrivals from the 8 South African states will have to spend
their first 7 days of quarantine in a govt facility

The government statement said the WHO named the mutant strain Omicron after declaring it a variant of concern.  


“The mutant strain possesses a large number of mutations and it was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on Nov. 24” said the government.

“In addition, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, this mutant strain is the most divergent variant during the COVID-19 pandemic so far. This raises concerns that it may be associated with increased transmissibility, reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased risk for reinfections.”


Apart from the two imported cases found in HK, the Omicron variant is said to have been detected in several other places including Botswana, South Africa, Israel and Belgium.

The government said it has contacted the health authorities in Israel and Belgium for details about the imported cases there.

Press for details

Further, the government said that no new cases have been found so far among people who stayed on the same floor of Regal Airport Hotel as the returnee from South Africa and the man from Canada he infected. 

Twelve other guests who stayed in adjacent rooms on the same floor between Nov 11 and 14 were sent to Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre but all have tested negative so far for Covid-19.


However, the government says it has been closely monitoring the latest data on mutant strains as well as the epidemic situation in various places and will adjust the boarding, quarantine and testing requirements for persons arriving in Hong Kong from high risk places as the situation warrants.

In the meantime, surveillance at designated quarantine hotels has been stepped to ensure compliance with infection control measures. People undergoing quarantine are reminded that they must keep the windows in their hotel room closed and to wear a surgical mask when they open the room door.

Meanwhile, three new imported Covid-19 infections were reported today, involving travelers from the United Kingdom, India and Russia. All carried the L452R mutant strain.

Two of them, a 47-year-old female resident from the UK and a 58-year-old male air crew from Russia, tested positive on their arrival test. The third, a 72-year-old woman who came from India via the United Arab Emirates, tested positive on her third day of stay at Regal Airport Hotel.



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