The Philippines will close its borders to foreign travellers from 20 countries until January 15, citing the discovery of a new Covid-19 variant internationally.

In addition to the UK, locations with lower rates of Covid-19 including Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, also fall under the ban, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Foreign travellers who transit through these locations are not exempt from the restrictions.

However, Filipino citizens will still be able to return to the country. They are required to undergo 14 days of quarantine upon arrival, regardless of Covid-19 test results.

A notable exception to the entry ban are foreign travellers visiting from the US.

“We are closely monitoring the situation in the United States regarding the new Covid-19 strain in Colorado. Concerned local officials are now studying this matter,” said president spokesperson Harry Roque, according to a government social media post.

“As to whether the president may impose restrictions to travellers coming from the United States in light of this new development, the guidance of the chief executive is clear. This shall be upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs.”

The restriction comes a month after ASEAN leaders met to discuss creating a travel bubble to facilitate business travel and boost economic recovery across Southeast Asia.

To date, the Philippines has recorded more than 470,000 cases and nearly 10,000 deaths due to Covid-19, the second highest in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.