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Korea travel ban on hold, says BI

But 26 from Daegu entered Cebu before the ban, now quarantined

The Bureau of Immigration admitted Thursday that it has yet to enforce the travel ban of passengers coming from South Korea, which has the most number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases after China even as 26 Koreans who enplaned from Daegu City to Cebu have been placed under quarantine by the Health Department in Region 7.

READ: Pinoys cautioned against travel to South Korea; infections rising

Korea travel ban on hold, says BI
FACE MASK ANYONE? Koreans wait in line to buy face masks in front of a store at Dongseongro shopping district in Daegu on Thursday. South Korea has reported 334 new coronavirus cases, taking its total to 1,595, still the largest in the world outside China, where the disease first emerged. AFP
Bureau spokesperson Dana Kriza Sandoval said immigration personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport could not determine inbound passengers from South Korea if they came

from Daegu and North Gyeongsang province in South Korea, where a large number of persons with COVID-19 were recorded.

“The travel ban to Korea is pending full implementation right now because we’re still waiting for the copy of the resolution, as well as clarification on how to target these passengers,” she said.

Immigration personnel manning the counters are having difficulty determining whether inbound passengers from South Korea had come from the provinces covered by the ban.

The 26 passengers from Daegu came in Tuesday night hours before the temporary travel ban was imposed, said DOH Central Visayas Director Jaime Bernadas.

While waiting for the clear guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, passengers from South Korea have been allowed to enter the country, despite the threat of COVID-19, Sandoval said.

“The BI only relies on the stamps on passengers’ passports to determine which country they arrived from,” she said. Most of the passengers go through major airports, and might have taken land transportation or regional flights, which would not show in their passports, she added.

The 26 Koreans were declared asymptomatic and classified only as persons under monitoring, Bernadas said. They were billeted in 16 different hotels,  with 14 of them in Cebu and 12 in Lapu-Lapu City, he said.

Sandoval said the situation is different from travel restrictions that applied to all passengers to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Air Asia on Thursday canceled its flights to and from South Korea following the government’s announcement of a travel ban.

But officials of the Manila International Airport Authority and Bureau of Immigration allowed other airlines to proceed with their scheduled flights to and from South Korea on Wednesday and Thursday.

Air Asia already canceled its Z2-884 and Z2-885 flights to and from Incheon a day after the government announced the travel ban.

Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said 14 weekly flights of PAL to and from Incheon, and seven weekly flights between Manila and Busan, will be affected once the government fully enforces the travel ban.

“We still maintain the same number of flight frequencies for now. [We] shall let you know should we cutback on flight frequencies. At the very least, we may downgrade from wide to narrowbody aircraft,” Villaluna said.

On Thursday, the Department of Health said 47 more patients were discharged from hospitals after testing negative for COVID-19.

Based on DOH’s daily tracker, the number of patients who tested negative for the deadly virus rose from 501 to 548 as of noon.

The number of persons being checked for COVID-19 who remain isolated in hospitals decreased from 101 to 64.

Metro Manila had 56 cases under investigation, 146 discharged, two confirmed cases and one mortality.

The Philippines has had three confirmed cases, all Chinese nationals from Hubeiu province, the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

Globally, more than 81,000 people, mostly from mainland China, have contracted the virus.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines is assessing a wider travel ban on South Korea, after barring travelers from its coronavirus-hit North Gyeongsang province.

He noted that the tally of those infected is changing quickly in South Korea, a worrisome development.

South Korea reported 284 new infections Wednesday—its largest daily increase to date—taking the overall national tally to 1,261, with the death toll rising to 12.

It remains the most-affected country after China, with the outbreak traced to a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu.

In other developments:

• The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong confirmed on Thursday that another Filipino has been tested positive for COVID-19 there. “The Hong Kong Health Department officially informed the consulate general this morning that a 29-year-old Filipina has tested positive for COVID-19,” the consulate said, in a statement. This brought the number of Filipinos infected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong to two.

• A lawmaker from the Bicol region on Thursday reiterated his proposal for the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) to consider telecommuting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The DOLE and ECOP should include telecommuting or the work-at-home arrangement among the stopgap measures they are considering to help the government contain the spread of COVID-19 and cushion its adverse impact on the labor front,” Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said.

• House Minority Leader and Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante, Jr. and his team were prevented from taking their connecting flight from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia due to the COVID-19 scare. The passengers were advised about a 48-hour temporary entry ban that Saudi Arabia has imposed on pilgrims to keep the country safe from the deadly virus. They reached Dubai two hours after the temporary entry ban took effect.

READ: COVID-19 deaths exceed 2,000; virus hits 74,000 in 25 nations

READ: ‘Tourist arrivals down due to COVID-19 outbreak’

READ: Nations take drastic steps to rim spread

Topics: Bureau of Immigration , novel coronavirus , Dana Kriza Sandoval
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