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Philippine islands self-isolate after new COVID-19 variant found in Malaysia

Philippine islands self-isolate after new COVID-19 variant found in Malaysia

FILE PHOTO: A woman undergoes a swab test amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at a testing station, in Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines, December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

MANILA: A province of islands in the southern Philippines will seal itself off for an initial two weeks from Monday (Jan 4) to keep out a new COVID-19 variant found in nearby Malaysia, its governor said.

Sulu, home to more than 900,000 people, currently has just two known active cases of the coronavirus, from 242 so far recorded, of which 12 were deaths.

"This is for securing our shores from the reported COVID-19 strain in Sabah, Malaysia considering we are so near," Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told ANC news channel on Thursday.

A top Malaysian health official last week it had found a new variant in the country, but had yet to detect the highly infectious variant that was originally discovered in Britain.

READ: Delay in transferring COVID-19 cases to hospitals due to 'logistics', rather than lack of beds - Malaysia health director-general

Sulu has requested the national government provide more vessels and helicopters to monitor its sea borders with Sabah in Malaysia.

The lockdown will be in place from Jan 4 to Jan 17 but could be extended, Tan said. Residents not currently on the islands will be denied entry from Monday.

READ: Philippines expands travel ban to limit spread of new COVID-19 virus strain

The Philippines has had more than 472,000 infections overall, among the highest caseloads in Southeast Asia, mostly in the capital Manila.

Despite strict entry and quarantine requirements on entry via its international airports, its vast southern sea borders are notoriously porous, with long established trade and travel routes between its islands and Sabah.

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Source: Reuters/aj

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