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Philippines bans British travelers on new virus strain

The Philippines on Wednesday banned inbound flights from the United Kingdom effective Dec. 24 until year-end after a rapidly spreading coronavirus strain caused cases to soar there.

“All passengers who have been in the UK within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely in transit, are also temporarily restricted from entering the country for the same period,” presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque said in a statement.

Outbound travel to the UK would be allowed subject to existing exit guidelines, he added.

Passengers already in transit from the UK who arrive before 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 24 would be allowed to enter the Philippines, subject to quarantine and testing, Mr. Roque said.

Europe has closed its doors to British travelers after the UK tightened its COVID-19 restrictions for London and nearby areas, and reversed plans to relax restrictions during the Christmas holiday.

Europe last week became the first region in the world to exceed 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic started a year ago.

Scientists first discovered the new strain, which they said is 70% more infections, in a patient in September.

The coronavirus has sickened 78.4 million and killed 1.7 million people worldwide since the outbreak emerged in China in December last year, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 55.1 million people have recovered, it said. — Gillian M. Cortez

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