President Duterte will cut short his Christmas vacation to meet  the government’s pandemic task force and other experts to discuss the new COVID-19 strain, Malacañang announced Friday.

In a text message, presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed that Duterte called the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and other infectious diseases experts for a meeting Saturday at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (RESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Duterte’s long-time aide Sen. Bong Go likewise confirmed the sudden meeting, adding that the Chief Executive was “very concerned” about the recent development in the pandemic.

“Manila po sa Malacañang. Cut short muna namin Christmas break (It will be in Malacañang. We will cut short our Christmas break for now),” he said.

Duterte flew to Davao City earlier this week to celebrate the holidays. In a photo shared by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the President can be seen enjoying a meal with his former wife Elizabeth Zimmerman inside their home.

Last Wednesday,  Duterte approved the temporary suspension of flights from the United Kingdom (UK) to the country from Dec. 24 to 31 following reports of a new variant of COVID-19 known as B.1.1.7 spreading across the European nation.

All passengers who have been in the UK within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, including those merely in transit, are also temporarily restricted from entering the country for the same period.

On the other hand, passengers already in transit from the UK and all those who have been to the UK within 14 days immediately preceding arrival to the Philippines, who arrive before Dec. 24, shall not be subject to entry restriction but they would be required to undergo stricter quarantine and testing protocols.

According to Roque, such protocols include the observation of an absolute 14-day quarantine period at the Athlete’s Village in the New Clark City, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCT test result.

Outbound travel to the UK shall likewise be subject to the existing exit protocols of the Philippines and the UK.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the said seemingly more contagious strain or variant was identified in southeastern England as early as September prompting health officials in the UK to impose stricter limits on movement and public spaces.

Source: Manila Bulletin (