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Philippines to reopen international borders

Guyam Island near Siargao, Philippines.

The Philippines is to reopen its international borders next month.

Vaccinated holidaymakers from 150 countries will be permitted to arrive without needing to quarantine.

According to Filipino government officials, it doesn’t make sense any more to require quarantine given the wave of omicron infections that has hit the country.

It’s believed that omicron may be so widespread in the Philippines that the rate may be higher than countries from where travel is restricted. In addition, studies show that most infections are driven by community transmission rather than inbound travellers.

“Border controls were meant to prevent the entry of omicron,” said health undersecretary Dr Maria Rosario Vergeire. “But the new variant is already here, and we’re already past border controls. What we should be doing now is strengthen community interventions.”

Infections rates are on the decline, dropping from 40,000 cases a day in mid-January to 18,000 cases last week.

From February 10, vaccinated travellers who test negative two days before their departure can head straight to their accommodation when they arrive in the Philippines. The current policy means travellers must quarantine for up to seven days on arrival.

Easing restrictions will initially apply to around 150 countries including all of Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, the US, the UK and much of Europe.

And by February 16, all vaccinated travellers from any country will be able to enter the Philippines.

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In a surprise move, Hong Kong has slashed quarantine to 14 days for all arrivals.

The country is partially reopening following 18 months of border closures.

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