Philippines re-opens to vaccinated tourists next week

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines will welcome back fully-vaccinated tourists from most countries next week, the government said yesterday, 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 December 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 per cent of gross domestic product in 2019, when more than eight million people visited, official data shows.

A man brings his used face shield in exchange for free face masks in Quezon City. PHOTO: AP