Asia Minute: Philippines Closing Borders to Visitors and Most Citizens

Mar 17, 2021

While cases of COVID-19 are falling in many parts of the world, in certain areas they continue to rise. And that includes the Philippines, which is now imposing new restrictions to reverse the trend.

The government of the Philippines is tightening the borders. Starting Saturday, foreign nationals and citizens who are not overseas Filipino workers will be barred from entering the country.

The restrictions will last for at least a month.

Authorities took that step in reaction to a COVID caseload that continues to grow – especially in Manila. Monday’s case count topped 5,400 — the biggest number in seven months, and the fourth-highest daily tally since the pandemic began a year ago.

A curfew went into effect Monday night in the Philippine capital, and by Tuesday morning, there were nearly 1,500 arrests for curfew violations.

Earlier Monday, the spokesman for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed he’s tested positive for COVID-19, although the president himself remains unaffected. The spokesman says he was surprised because he is routinely tested for the virus and showed negative results last Wednesday – the day before he last had direct contact with the president.

The Philippines has the second highest number of cases in the region — trailing only Indonesia.

The country was late to vaccinations, which rolled out with a Chinese version on March 1 and has proceeded relatively slowly since then.