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Gov’t told to monitor tourists after new UK coronavirus strain

HEALTH experts on Saturday recommended monitoring of visitors not only from the United Kingdom (UK) but also from countries with reported cases of a new coronavirus strain.

Marissa M. Alejandria, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, told a televised Cabinet meeting on Saturday the government should monitor countries especially in Asia that have cases of the new variant.

“We also need to check on other travelers coming from other countries where the variant was also reported,” she said.

While virus mutations are expected, imposing a lockdown or travel restrictions would not be sustainable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also frowned upon travel restrictions, saying governments should instead strengthen their health systems.

“The WHO recommendation for now is not to restrict travel but to ensure that our public health interventions are in place,” Socorro Escalante, WHO coordinator for essential medicines and health technologies told the meeting.

The virus strain was first detected in the United Kingdom and later in other European and Asian countries.

Edsel T. Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology said the country managed back in June a variant of the virus that was “three to nine times more infectious” than the original virus.

“If we remember in June when we had the surge of cases, there was actually a new variant that came from Europe, which is the D614G, and this was actually worse,” he said.

“We know how to deal with these variants and minimum health standards are the key,” he added.

The government on Saturday extended the ban on inbound flights from the UK, originally to run until year-end.

Philippine Health authorities last week said they had not detected a new coronavirus strain similar to a rapidly spreading variant that has caused cases to soar in the UK.

Europe has closed its doors to British travelers after the UK tightened its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) restrictions for London and nearby areas, and reversed plans to relax restrictions during the Christmas holiday.

France said it would bar all people coming from the UK for 48 hours, including freight carriers, whether by road, air, sea or rail, according to a Reuters report.

Germany, Italy and the Netherlands suspended flights from Britain, while Ireland said it would restrict  flights and ferries from its neighbor.

Belgium said it would close its borders to flights and trains — including the popular Eurostar service — coming from the UK. — Gillian M. Cortez

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