US issues travel advisory vs Philippines on COVID-19 surge

THE UNITED States has asked its citizens to avoid traveling to the Philippines, where there has been a surge in coronavirus infections since March.

“Do not travel to the Philippines due to COVID-19,” the US Department of State said in an advisory posted on its website. “Additionally, exercise increased caution due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping.”

The agency issued the April 20 notice after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 4 travel health notice for the Philippines which indicates a “very high level of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).”

The CDC said fully vaccinated travelers could also get infected and might spread coronavirus variants.

“If you must travel to the Philippines, get fully vaccinated before travel,” it said on its website. “All travelers should wear a mask, stay six feet from others, avoid crowds and wash their hands.”

The US also asked Americans not to travel to the Sulu Archipelago in and Marawi City in southern Philippines due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and kidnapping. Travel to other areas of the Mindanao region should be reconsidered, it added.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 9,227 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 962,307.

The death toll rose by 124 to 16,265, while recoveries increased by 19,699 to 829,608, it said in a bulletin.

There were 116,434 active cases, 96.7% of which were mild, 1.3% did not show symptoms, 0.6% were critical, 0.8% were severe and 0.42% were moderate.

The Health department on April 2 reported the highest daily tally of 15,310 cases since the pandemic started last year.

The agency said 26 duplicates had been removed from the tally and 36 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. One laboratory was closed on April 19, while eight laboratories failed to submit data.

About 10.6 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of April 19, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 143.6 million and killed 3.1 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 122 million people have recovered, it said. More than 1.4 million coronavirus vaccines have been given as of April 20, according to data from DoH. The agency said 209,456 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, while about 1.4 million have received their first shot.

Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said 84% of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Metro Manila have been used.

The Cordillera Administrative Region ICU bed occupancy rate was at 73%, 88% in Cagayan Valley, 87% in Central Luzon and 83% in the Calabarzon region.

Healthcare use rate, which includes ICU, isolation and ward beds, in Metro Manila was at 67%, she said.

The DoH on April 2 reported the highest daily tally of 15,310 cases since the pandemic started last year. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas