By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PHILIPPINE Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia yesterday suspended flights to Taiwan after the Immigration bureau said it was included in the Philippines’ travel ban to contain a novel coronavirus outbreak.
“In support of efforts by the Philippine government to manage the risks from the novel coronavirus, and the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban, all Cebu Pacific flights between Taipei and Manila are canceled effective Feb. 11 until further notice,” Cebu Pacific said in an emailed advisory.
AirAsia also said it had canceled flights between the Philippines and Taiwan (Taipei and Kaohsiung).
Philippine Airlines said it had canceled flights between Manila and Taipei until March 28.
The new coronavirus strain has killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Chinese, and sickened more than 40,000 more.
The Immigration bureau started enforcing a travel ban on foreign travelers from mainland China and its special administrative regions early this month.
“While not explicitly stated, we have confirmed with the secretary of Justice that Taiwan is indeed part of the ban, and this expansion shall be implemented immediately,” Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a statement.
Filipinos and foreigners with permanent resident status may be allowed entry but will be turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine for their assessment, the agency said.
Filipinos are also barred from leaving for China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan unless they are part of a government delegation conducting official duties, a member of the World Health Organization and other agencies involved in fighting the novel coronavirus.
“We appeal to the public to bear with us as we implement this, as this is a measure seen by the Department of Health to effectively prevent the further spread of this virus,” Mr. Morente said.