Manila [Philippines], January 15 (ANI/Xinhua): The Department of Health (DOH) of Philippines on Friday reported 2,048 new confirmed COVID-19 cases taking the total number in the country to 496,646.
The death toll climbed to 9,876 after 137 more patients died from the viral disease, the DOH said. It added 551 more patients recovered, raising the total number of recoveries to 459,737.
The Philippines, which has about 110 million population, has tested over 6.77 million people.
The Philippines will now test all incoming travellers "from all corners of the world" that enter the country to detect if the passengers carry the new and more contagious coronavirus variants, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
"We will now start to test (all incoming passengers to detect the presence of the new strains) just to make sure," Vergeire told reporters during a video conference on Friday.
She added all incoming travellers are required to undergo swab testing at the port of entry and all those who test positive for COVID-19 will go through genome sequencing to detect the presence of the new strains.
The new policy has been imposed after the new strain entered the Philippines through a Filipino male with a travel history to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
She clarified all travellers need to be tested for the new variants and not just those from the 33 countries and regions in the current travel restriction list.
Vergeire said the Philippines could not impose a "complete travel ban for everybody," citing its negative impact on the economy. "We want to balance health with the economy. It is not feasible for us to do that," she said.
Instead, she said the Philippines is strengthening its genomic bio-surveillance to detect and isolate those people carrying the mutated strains.
"Our safeguard is the surveillance and the strict protocols in our ports of entry," she said.
What the country needs is to adapt to the situation, she said. "We need to prevent (the entry of new virus) and strictly implement our protocols," she added.
The Philippines barred all foreign travellers from or transiting through 33 areas because of concerns over the new coronavirus variants until January 31.
Filipinos entering the Philippines from or who have been to the affected areas, are allowed entry but required to complete a strict 14-day quarantine at a government-run isolation facility even if coronavirus tests show negative results. (ANI/Xinhua)