OCTA research fellow Dr. Guido David said Filipinos would not be too concerned with the government’s decision to lift the ban imposed on inbound travel from 10 countries because the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines could be worse than India’s or Pakistan’s.

Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) ending the travel ban covering India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia starting September 6.

The travel ban will be removed amid the rising Covid infections due to the more transmissible and highly-infectious Delta variant. 

David noted he is not too bothered by the lifting of the travel ban because the Philippines is among the 10 countries in Asia with a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.

“Actually, we have one of the highest number of cases in Asia,” he said.

“This means, those from India  and even from Pakistan might be scared to come here. They have only 4,000 cases per day. 

“So, instead of us being afraid of people entering the country, I think they will be more scared to come here because the Philippines’ situation is already worse,” he added.

However, David said this does not mean the national government will lower their guard on inbound travelers from other countries. He stressed it is still important to impose necessary quarantine restrictions for incoming travelers.

The travel ban was implemented in some of the countries since early May to prevent the entry of the more transmissible variant that first emerged from India. It has since been extended and expanded to more countries multiple times.

Sen. Imee Marcos branded as  “reckless, if not premature” the IATF’s recommendation of the 

lifting of immigration bans on 10 countries. she said it added anxiety for the Filipino people. 

Despite the precautions in place, she contended, that the Philippines’ low vaccination rate of 13percent of its population makes everyone vulnerable to the virus. 

Marcos cited that the United States, which has vaccinated about 54 percent of its population, still restricts entry to non-immigrant travelers from India and lists  Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, and the UAE as ‘Very High Risk’ countries, while Indonesia, Oman, and Sri Lanka are considered ‘High Risk’.

The United Kingdom, which has fully vaccinated about 65 percent of its population, puts Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand on its ‘Red List’.

Sen. Nancy Binay described as alarming the lifting of travel ban. 

“Covid cases in the country is continuously rising but it seemed this is just ok for the IATF to loosen  travel restrictions,” said Binay.

“The incongruent and discordant policies,” she said, “weaken our barriers against Covid and other more deadly variants, and the biggest chance of the variants entering the country is due topoor border control.”

Sen. Risa Hontiveros  questioned the government’s lifting of travel restrictions while hospitals are in full capacity. 

“Are they playing with this? They’re like kids opening and closing airports, “said Hontiveros.

She said the infection rate is over 25 percent, adding the Delta variant.

“We are also projecting spikes in coronavirus cases in the next few weeks,” said Hontiveros while also mentioning the new Mu variant. 

“This is a matter of safety and health of our people so we  are hoping that the Bureau of Quarantine and other  government agencies will strictly enforce protocol  to ensure the health of our people,” stated Hontiveros.