IATF to decide if Malaysia, Indonesia will be included in travel ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) — The government's pandemic response task force will look into the possible inclusion of travelers from Indonesia and Malaysia to those banned from entering the country to contain the spread of the Delta variant, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, Duque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases will meet on Thursday to discuss expanding the travel ban that currently covers seven countries.

"Indonesia and I think also Malaysia (may be included) because of the proximity of the said countries to the southern parts of the Philippines and the porousness of the borders," Duque said.

He said the technical advisory group of health experts will make an official recommendation to the task force whether more countries may be added, depending on the trajectory of COVID-19 cases in those affected by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

"There’s always that possibility. Remember that the Delta variant is detected in 85 to 90 countries worldwide," Duque noted.

He added that metrics to be considered include the attack rate recorded in a country per 100,000 population, as well as the percentage of increase in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks.

Duque said the IATF decision on the updated travel ban will also be finalized Thursday.

Currently, travelers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates are not allowed to enter the country until July 15.

READ: PH extends ban on travelers from India, six other countries until July 15 

Duque stressed that local governments and national government agencies must "jointly enforce" strict border control which is crucial to the country's pandemic response.

He added that the country implements a "four-door policy" — banning travelers with high incidence of variants, strict border controls, intensifying prevention and early detection strategies, and a more aggressive clinical case management of COVID-19 cases.

The country has so far detected 19 cases of the so-called "double mutant" Delta variant in the Philippines, all from returning Filipino travelers. No community transmission has been reported so far.