The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases exempted newly-hired and returning overseas Filipino workers, as long as they execute a declaration that they understand the risks involved of traveling to South Korea.
The task force also allowed permanent residents of South Korea and those leaving for study there to travel to the country.
On the other hand, any person—except Filipinos and their foreign spouses and children, permanent resident visa holders, and diplomatic visa holders—coming from the North Gyeongsang province, including the city Daegu and Cheongdo County, are temporarily banned from entering the Philippines.
The temporary travel ban also applies to persons—except those falling under the same exceptions—who have been to North Gyeongsang, Daegu and Cheongdo within 14 days immediately before they arrived in the Philippines.
The task force stressed that the approved rules are effective immediately, subject to “close monitoring” for the task force within the next 48 hours.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III criticized the Bureau of Immigration for failing to enforce the travel ban earlier, pending the release of the rules.
Duque said that with the threat of a coronavirus outbreak, time is of the essence and the travel restriction should have been enforced right away to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in the country.
A Palace official, meanwhile, said the government is considering expanding the temporary travel ban to Japan, Italy, and Iran, as those countries reported more infections.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the IATF was monitoring the situation in these three countries, which had reported a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases.
The Bureau of Immigration said it would enforce the ban with the release of the IATF guidelines.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said the Korean government pledged to issue a certification to distinguish if a passenger is coming from the areas of concern.
Meanwhile, immigration officers have been instructed to carefully scrutinize arriving passengers from South Korea and require the Resident Registration Certificate (RRC) and their National ID to be able to screen passengers from those areas.
“While it is a challenge to identify which passengers from South Korea actually came from said areas, the Korean government is doing measures to ensure that the virus stops spreading to nearby regions,” said Medina.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente also clarified the bureau did not deliberately delay the implementation of the travel ban as ordered by Malacanang on Tuesday.
“We had to thresh out implementation issues, as this travel ban is different compared to the previous ones issued,” said Morente.
“We are one with the government in ensuring that this health scare does not spread in the country, by implementing policies properly and efficiently,” he added.
Reports showed that South Korea has 256 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infected in the country to 2,022, according to the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.
Of the new cases, 182 were in Daegu, the location of a church at the center of South Korea’s outbreak, the agency reportedly said. Thirteen virus-related deaths have been recorded so far.
Health officials on Friday said Filipinos who may be repatriated from Macau and South Korea will not be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine at the New Clark City, but undergo home quarantine.
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said their situation is different from those who have been repatriated from China’s Wuhan City and the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
She added, however, that they would be strictly monitored as well.
Duque on Friday also said the public should refrain from concluding that persons who have recovered from COVID-19 could catch the infection again.
A woman working as a tour bus guide in Japan tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, weeks after recovering from the disease, the Osaka prefecture government said on Thursday.
But in a radio interview, Duque said the report has yet to be validated.
On Friday, the Health department reported that two more Filipino repatriates from Japan were transferred to hospital after showing symptoms of respiratory illeness while under quarantine at New Clark City in Tarlac.
“There are two more repatriates who were brought to our facility because of sore throat,” Duque said.
“Their specimens were collected and sent for testing at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.”
The two Filipinos brought to five the total number of symptomatic repatriates among the 445 Filipinos who arrived in the Philippines earlier this week. They were all from the coronavirus-hit Japanese cruise ship Diamond Princess.
On Thursday, three repatriates from Japan were brought to a hospital in Central Luzon for having sore throats and coughing. Two of them already tested negative for COVID-19.
Duque said should any of the repatriates test positive for the virus, the case would be considered an imported one and will not be counted as a case of local transmission.
The 440 Filipino crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship will receive a certificate of completion of the 14-day mandatory quarantine from the Department of Health, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said Friday.
“This certificate will serve as an indication of your readiness to re-join your respective families and your community and possibly, resume employment,” OWWA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said in a statement.
Cacdac added that the certificate will be their guarantee to be able to avail of the financial and livelihood assistance to be provided by the government.
Each of them will be provided with P10,000 financial aid, transport allowance from Manila to their provinces, and a P20,000 livelihood grant for seafarers who will decide to permanently stay in the Philippines.