DOH: No new COVID-19 strain found in PH, stricter ban on UK travel unnecessary

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 21) — The Department of Health on Monday said no new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the Philippines, following reports of a new strain in the United Kingdom that is spreading more quickly.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire allayed fears that the new variant of the virus has reached the country, citing data from the Research Institute on Tropical Medicine. 

"Sa ngayon wala pa silang nakikitang bagong strain na meron tayo dito sa bansa based on their monitoring. But of course we will be furthering this monitoring," she said in a virtual media briefing.

[Translation: They didn't see a new strain in the country based on their monitoring.]

England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, warned that a newly-identified variant of COVID-19 can be up to 70% more transmissible than the earlier, more dominant type of virus. He said the new variant is responsible for 60% of infections in London, which have nearly doubled in the last week, CNN reported.

A series of stricter coronavirus restrictions are being imposed over the holiday season in UK as the cases get "out of control," as described by health officials. The ensuing wave of travel bans has cut off UK travelers from much of Europe and other parts of the world. Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Ireland, among others, have temporarily banned flights from Britain.

RELATED: Countries halt travel from UK over new COVID-19 variant concerns

The Department of Health and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there is no need yet to issue stricter travel restrictions since UK already imposed a lockdown and the Philippines has its own inbound travel regulations.

"Naghigpit na sila ng borders. Dito sa ating bansa, ang ating mga pinapapasok pa lang dito sa ngayon ay mga diplomats at those with official businesses here in the country. Yun pong restrictions I don't think that would be required at this point," Vergeire said.

[Translation: They have strict border controls. In our country, we are only allowing the entry of diplomats and those with official businesses. I don't think restrictions are required at this point.]

Roque shared the same sentiment, but added that the policy-making body IATF may discuss the issue.

"Sa ngayon in place pa ang protocols para sa pumapasok ng Pilipinas," he said in a separate briefing.

[Translation: Safety protocols are in place for those entering the country.]