SENATOR Francis Pangilinan called on the government to immediately impose a travel ban on countries that were monitored to have the new coronavirus variant, and not wait for a local transmission before doing so.
“Bakit kailangang hintaying kumalat ang bagong strain ng virus bago kumilos?” he said, reacting to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s pronouncement.
It will be recalled that in January, when the Philippines was still Covid-free, Pangilinan was among those who called for a travel ban of visitors from Wuhan, China.
“Makakaasa lang tayo na magiging mas mabuti at mas malusog ang ating 2021 kung malinaw ang pag-iisip at pagsasalita ng mga namumuno sa pagsugpo ng Covid sa ating bansa,” Pangilinan stressed.
The senator urged the government to take decisive action to prevent the variant from entering the Philippines, whose number of coronavirus cases is now nearing half a million.
Pangilinan said officials should have learned their lesson from Covid-19, which has already spread in some parts of the country before the government decided to impose a travel ban.
“It’s time authorities take swift action because all it takes for the new variant to spread is one person getting on a plane and landing at NAIA,” he said.
The senator also exhorted the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force to constantly monitor developments and inform the public about the new strain without causing fear or panic.
“An informed citizenry is an empowered citizenry. The people should be given clear, accurate, and timely messages about the virus so they will know how to better protect themselves,” he said.
The Philippines initially suspended flights from the United Kingdom, where the first case of the new variant was found, from December 24 until December 31.
The travel ban has been extended to two more weeks.