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Philippines lifts ban on foreign tourists as outbreak eases

Published:Friday | January 28, 2022 | 2:40 PM
A woman stands beside a sign to remind passengers to show their vaccination card before riding at a jeepney terminal in Quezon City, Philippines on Monday, January 17, 2022. People who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 were banned from riding public transport in the Philippine capital region Monday in a desperate move that has sparked protests from labor and human rights groups. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines will lift a ban on the entry of foreign tourists and businesspeople next month after nearly two years, in a move to revive the battered tourism industry as the latest coronavirus outbreak started to ease, officials said Friday.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the country will reopen its doors to travellers from more than 150 countries with visa-free privileges starting February 10.

Foreign travellers will no longer be required to quarantine in government-designated centres upon arrival if they have been fully vaccinated and tested negative prior to arrival, officials said.

The government had initially planned to lift the ban on December 1 but indefinitely postponed it as the more contagious omicron variant spread, which also prompted authorities to reimpose tighter restrictions.

President Rodrigo Duterte warned that unvaccinated Filipinos who defy orders to stay at home could face arrest.

Commuters who have not been immunised were also prohibited from public transport in the capital region of more than 13 million people unless on urgent errands, for at least up to the end of the month.

The decision has sparking protests from human rights and labour groups. The number of daily infections has dropped considerably in the capital in recent days.

“We're done with border control,” Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire told a news conference, adding that government focus has shifted to preventing community transmission of the omicron variant, which has caused five deaths in the country so far.

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