The Philippines will close its borders to foreign travelers from the US for two weeks, to slow the spread of a new, more infectious strain of Covid-19. It has already banned travel from 20 countries where the strain is present.

The ban comes into effect on January 3 and will last until January 15, the Filipino government announced on Friday. One day earlier, Florida became the third US state to discover a case of the new strain, which was first detected in the UK in September. 

The ban will also cover travelers who have been in the US up to 14 days before arriving in the Philippines. A ban has already been put in place for travelers coming from 19 countries where the new strain has been detected, including the UK, Spain, Japan, and Germany.

The strain spreads more rapidly than the coronavirus variant responsible for most of 2020’s cases, but has not yet proven more severe or more fatal. Governments have nevertheless imposed draconian restrictions in a bid to curb its spread. Japan banned all foreigners from entry in late December, while the British government extended its harshest level of restrictions to three quarters of its population on Wednesday.

As the strain spreads, the World Health Organization on Thursday approved a vaccine by US drugmaker Pfizer for emergency use. Vaccination is already underway in several countries around the world, though citizens of the Philippines will have to wait until May, the country’s vaccine czar announced last weekend.

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