The Philippines has kicked off an ambitious campaign to vaccinate nine million people in three days, as it temporarily suspended flights from countries with cases of the Omicron variant, a new variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“This is our single biggest push to fast-track vaccination and reaches our target of 70 percent population protection nationwide,” President Rodrigo Duterte said at a vaccination site in the capital Manila on Nov. 29.
Though an earlier target of 15 million shots was scaled back due to a shortage of supplies and logistical challenges, nine million would still be a significant number for the archipelago nation.
The government has deployed over 100,000 volunteers and set up 8,000 vaccination centres across 16 of the 18 regions nationwide to help vaccinate eligible residents as young as 12. Duterte also declared the three-day period “special working days,” which will exempt people from work if they are scheduled for vaccination.
Omicron, classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization due to fears that the variant could be more contagious and evade the protection of existing vaccines, has yet to be identified in the Philippines.
The strain was first detected in South Africa, but cases have also been found in countries including Australia, Hong Kong, Israel, and Germany, among others. Some governments around the world quickly imposed new travel curbs, one of which is the Philippines, which has suspended flights from countries with cases of Omicron from Nov. 29 onwards.
The Philippines has also temporarily suspended its plans to allow entry for fully vaccinated foreign travellers from countries on its “green list” in a bid to prevent the spread of Omicron in the country.
Similarly, Vietnam has temporarily halted flights to and from countries with cases of Omicron, and stopped issuing visas or travel permissions to people going to or arriving from these countries.
Both Israel and Japan have shut their borders to all foreign nationals, while Morocco said it would suspend all incoming flights for two weeks starting on Nov. 29.
Indonesia has also barred entry of foreign travellers who have been in certain African countries over the past 14 days, and require Indonesian nationals coming from these countries to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
India also revised its CCP virus guidelines for international arrivals, requiring passengers to submit travel details for their last two weeks and a negative PCR test result before their scheduled flight. The new guidelines will take effect on Dec. 1.
Singapore and Malaysia reopened mutual borders for vaccinated travellers on Nov. 29 after nearly two years of closure that caused tens of thousands of people to be stranded on both sides, though there are concerns that the border might be closed again due to the new variant.
Reuters contributed to this article.