Philippines reopens to vaccinated tourists next week

by AFP

MANILA – The Philippines will welcome back fully-vaccinated tourists from most countries next week, the government said Friday, over 20 months after shutting its borders to keep out the coronavirus.

Falling Covid-19 infections and rising vaccine coverage will allow the country to revive its battered tourism sector with the Dec 1 reopening, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Karlo Nograles told reporters.

Fully vaccinated tourists from 157 countries will not be quarantined if they test negative for the virus just before their flight and if they have not travelled to countries with high infection rates in the previous two weeks.

A list of approved countries provided by Nograles, excludes China, the Philippines’ fastest-growing tourist market, as well as Taiwan and India.

But it includes Manila’s remaining top-10 tourism sources, which include the United States, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, Britain, and Germany.

The list allows the resumption of visa-free travel for short visits of under 30 days to nationals from the 157 countries who already enjoyed permit-free entry to the Philippines before the pandemic began.

“This is really our chance and opportunity to rebound the economy,” he added.

Tourism is a major driver of the Southeast Asian country’s economy, accounting for nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2019, when more than eight million people visited, official data shows.

That slumped to 5.4 percent last year as tourist arrivals plummeted 82 percent to 1.48 million.

The government has eased virus restrictions in recent weeks as the daily infection rate hovers at the lowest level since the beginning of the year and the nationwide vaccination rate increases.

Around one-third of the country’s 110 million people are fully vaccinated.

The Philippines has recorded more than 2.8 million infections since the start of the pandemic, including nearly 48,000 deaths.