US warns citizens vs. PH trip


The United States has warned its citizens against traveling to the Philippines due to the high level of COVID-19 cases in the country, while the Japanese prime minister called off a visit to Manila following a resurgence of infections in Japan.

“Do not travel to the Philippines due to COVID-19,” the US State Department said in a travel advisory dated April 20.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for the Philippines due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country,” the advisory added.

The US government also noted that there are restrictions in place affecting the entry of US citizens to the Philippines.

Due to the “unprecedented risk to travelers” from the COVID-19 pandemic, the US State Department earlier said it would enhance its “Do Not Travel” guidance to about 80 percent of countries worldwide.

Most American citizens have already been advised against traveling to most parts of Europe due to pandemic restrictions.

The US also prohibited the entry of nearly all non-US citizens who have recently been in most of Europe, China, Brazil, Iran and South Africa.

Meanwhile, the Japan Times reported that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has called off a planned visit to India and the Philippines, apparently due to a resurgence of coronavirus infections in Japan.

The trip, which had been scheduled from late April to early May, was intended to reaffirm Japan’s cooperation with the two countries in achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific, as the nations look to counter China’s military buildup and growing assertiveness in the region.

In India, Suga was expected to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the first time in person and discuss promotion of bilateral collaboration in many fields including outer space and cybersecurity.

Japan and India have also decided to postpone their foreign and defense ministerial talks scheduled this weekend in Tokyo due to a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in India.

Suga’s visit to the Philippines was aimed at marking the 65th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The recent spikes in coronavirus cases in Japan have put a heavy strain on the medical systems in some areas, leading the government to consider imposing a fresh state of emergency in Tokyo, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures.

India and the Philippines are also grappling with their own surge in COVID-19 cases, which may have played a part in the decision to cancel the trip.

The Philippines on Wednesday logged 9,227 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of cases to 962,307, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.

The department reported 124 new fatalities that brought the death toll from COVID-19 to 16,265.

Meanwhile, total recoveries also increased to 829,608 with 19,699 new ones.

This left 116,434 active cases, of which 96.7 percent are mild, 1.3 percent are asymptomatic, 0.8 percent are severe, and 0.6 percent are critical, and 0.52 percent are moderate.

The DOH reported that, nationwide, 65 percent of the ICU beds were in use; 49 percent of the isolation beds were in use; 55 percent of the ward beds were in use; and 45 percent of the ventilators were in use.

In Metro Manila, 82 percent of the ICU beds were in use; 61 percent of the isolation beds were in use; 70 percent of the ward beds were in use; and 60 percent of the ventilators were in use.

The DOH had said it will push for the daily logging of time-based recoveries of COVID-19 patients.

In other developments;

* Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Debold Sinas on Wednesday named Lt. Gen. Joselito Vera Cruz as the new commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) Covid Shield, the government’s arm in charge of implementing quarantine rules and health protocols. Vera Cruz, the newly appointed deputy chief for operations (DCO), will replace Lt. Gen. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, who will retire from the service upon turning 56 on Saturday.

* Aiming to respond to the severe gaps in the already struggling health care system revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Francis Pangilinan filed several amendments to the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers. Senate Bill No. (SBN) 2142 seeks to amend the law by institutionalizing an increase in allowances and additional compensation of public health workers.

“The old Magna Carta for Public Health Workers is almost 30 years old. There are needs at the present that cannot be met anymore by the old law. And the pandemic has revealed that it is severely lacking in ensuring our public health care workers are adequately compensated in the face of a global health emergency. It has to be updated to respond to the call of the times,” Pangilinan said.

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