Manila tags 14 more ‘high risk’ states

THE government’s pandemic task force has included 14 states and territories in the red list or areas that are deemed of high risk for Covid-19, Malacañang announced Friday.

Among those on the list are Canada, Saudi Arabia and Spain, which have a significant number of Filipino migrants.

Also on the red list are Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Curacao, French Guiana, Iceland, Malta, Mayotte, Mozambique, Puerto Rico, Somalia and the US Virgin Islands.

According to acting Palace spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles, Filipino travelers coming from red list countries shall be allowed to enter the country.

“‘Yung ni-lift lang natin ang dating resolution prohibiting the entry of international passengers from red list [countries] except if they’re Filipinos on Bayanihan flights (We only lifted the former resolution prohibiting the entry of international travelers from the red list except it they’re Filipinos on Bayanihan flights,” Nograles said.

“Napagdesisyunan na (It’s been decided that) we’ll allow them to come in as long as they comply with the red list protocols. ‘Di na nila kailangan maghintay ng Bayanihan flights (They no longer need to wait for Bayanihan flights),” he added.

Under the new guidelines, those arriving from high risk areas must present a negative RT-PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin.

Upon arrival, they shall undergo mandatory facility-based quarantine with another RT-PCR test done on the seventh day, with the date of arrival being the first day.

They may be discharged only upon the completion of a 10-day facility based quarantine, regardless of a negative RT-PCR test result and shall observe home quarantine up to the 14th day.

“This only covers Filipino citizens. Tourism purposes are not yet allowed,” Nograles said.

Malacañang also announced that the following states and territories are on the green list or those classified as low-risk areas: Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, British Virgin Islands, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Falkland Islands, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Montserrat, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sint Eustatius, Taiwan, Timor-Leste and Uganda.

All other countries not mentioned, including the United States, are on the yellow list.

The new classifications shall be in effect from January 16 to 31.

HK ban

Meanwhile, passengers from more than 150 nations will be banned from transiting through Hong Kong International Airport.

The move deepens Hong Kong’s global isolation as the city pursues a staunch zero-Covid policy, and creates new headaches for airlines — some of which have begun avoiding the Chinese territory because of its strict quarantine rules.

Hong Kong ranks territories into categories based on how widespread their Covid-19 infections are, with 153 countries currently classified as Group A — from which arrivals must spend 21 days in quarantine.

On Friday, Hong Kong’s airport tightened those measures.

“Passenger transfer/transit services via Hong Kong International Airport for any persons who have stayed in Group A specified place[s] in the past 21 days will be suspended,” the airport said in a statement, adding that the ban was needed to control the Omicron variant’s spread.

The suspension will come into force on Sunday, for a month.

Eight Group A countries — Australia, Canada, France, India, the Philippines, Pakistan, the UK and the US — are already banned entirely from arriving in Hong Kong.

The city is battling a small outbreak of the Omicron variant that began with returning Cathay Pacific crew who breached home quarantine rules.

It has reimposed strict social distancing rules, including closing gyms and halting restaurant dining after 6:00 pm.

The government is also investigating Cathay Pacific and said the company might face legal action.

Cathay is flying a fraction of its pre-pandemic routes and many of its long-haul flights transit through its home city.

The transit suspension was first reported by Bloomberg News this week citing sources who said it would not apply to diplomats, officials and athletes heading to next month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The Hong Kong airport statement on Friday listed no exemptions for Olympic delegates.