Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Friday, December 25, has confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte is cutting short his Christmas break in Davao City to meet with concerned government officials to discuss measures to address the new COVID-19 strain.

According to Go, Duterte will be flying back to Manila to meet the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Saturday.

“Biglaan ang patawag ng meeting with IATF and infectious disease experts tomorrow si PRRD to discuss [the] new strain,” Go said, stressing, “very much concerned kami ni Pangulo.”

“[Sa] Manila po, sa Malacañang. Cut short muna namin ang Christmas break,” he added as he emphasized, “para sa amin ni Pangulo, walang tulog ang serbisyo.”

In a phone interview, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told Palace reporters that the President and concerned government officials will also discuss what will happen to the travel ban imposed on travelers from the United Kingdom, and if a new travel ban needs to be imposed on travelers coming from other countries where the new COVID-19 strain has been confirmed.

“[Pag-uusapan] kung ano mangyayari sa travel ban na na-impose na sa mga galing ng Inglatera, kung kinakailangan ba ng travel ban kung saan nakapasok na ang bagong strain ng COVID-19,” Roque said, adding that the reimposition of an enhanced community quarantine in the country is unlikely.

“Hindi naman po siguro dahil pinapangalagaan na natin na ‘yung mga mamamayan ay magkaroon ng hanapbuhay,” he said.

The new COVID-19 strain has caused a surge of new infections in the United Kingdom, prompting countries to shut their borders to the UK. Meanwhile, countries like Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, and the Netherlands have already reported their first cases of the new strain.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has already imposed a temporary travel ban of flights from the United Kingdom since December 24 until the end of the year. However, outgoing flights are still allowed, following current exit protocols.

Meanwhile, Go continued to urge the public to strictly abide by necessary health protocols as they celebrate the holidays.

“Kasama natin ang ating pamilya, pero wala munang parties dahil delikado pa po habang wala pa pong vaccine, no time to celebrate, ‘wag muna tayong mag-celebrate, ang importante kasama natin ang pamilya sa isang bahay,” Go said, reminding everyone to wear masks and face shields, observe social distancing, and avoid unessential travels.

“Patuloy lang po tayong magdasal at magmalasakit sa kapwa. Alagaan natin ang ating kalusugan at panatilihing ligtas ang ating komunidad — iyan ang pinaka-importanteng mapapamahagi natin ngayong Pasko,” he added.

He reiterated that the government will prioritize the poor and vulnerable sectors, as well as frontliners, in gaining access to COVID-19 vaccines once a safe and effective vaccine is approved and made available to the public.

“Kami ni Pangulong Duterte, uunahin namin ang lahat ng mahihirap, uunahin namin ang lahat ng frontliners at vulnerable para makabalik sila sa kanilang normal na pamumuhay,” he said.

“At dapat libre para sa mahihirap at accessible ito sa lahat, lalo na po yung mga kababayan natin na wala pong choice but to go out and work,” he added.

Meanwhile, Go also told the media that the President is scheduled to sign the General Appropriations Act of 2021 on December 28.

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