THE Philippine government has reimposed a ban on leisure travel overseas after insurance companies rejected coverage for Filipinos seeking to leave the country amid a coronavirus pandemic.
Only one insurance company agreed to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses of travelers whose trips might get canceled, presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told an online news briefing on Thursday.
“So the Inter-Agency Task Force suspended nonessential travel in the meantime,” he said.
The government lifted the ban on nonessential overseas travel at the start of the month as part of a plan to reboot the economy by relaxing lockdowns meant to contain a coronavirus pandemic.
Filipinos with a tourist visa had been allowed to travel abroad as long as they adhere to certain requirements, including adequate travel health insurance. Travelers must also sign a declaration acknowledging the risks.
There should also be no ban on Filipino tourists in the destination country. Returning Filipinos must undergo a 14-day quarantine and coronavirus swab test.
Mr. Roque said travelers with confirmed flight bookings as of July 20 would be exempted from the new travel ban.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island in mid-March, suspending work, classes and public transportation including flights to contain the pandemic. People should stay home except to buy food and other basic goods, he said.
Mr. Duterte extended the strict lockdown twice for the island and thrice for Manila, the capital and nearby cities. The lockdown in most areas have been eased, but mass gatherings remained banned.
Filipino tourists were barred from flying out of the country. Only overseas Filipino workers, permanent residents abroad and holders of a student visa were allowed to leave.
Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said essential outbound travel was now allowed. Travelers must acknowledge the risks in writing and compliance with quarantine protocols when they come home.
The travel ban was lifted as the Department of Health (BoP) reported 1,540 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, bringing the total to 47,873.
Many countries around the world have imposed travel bans to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Airports have been shut down, with incoming and outgoing flights suspended, while nationwide lockdowns were imposed to contain the global pandemic.
The virus has sickened 15.4 million and killed about 631,000 people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.
More than 9.4 million people have recovered, it said.
At least 93% of the global population now lives in countries with coronavirus-related travel restrictions, with about three billion people living in countries enforcing complete border closures to foreigners, according to recent analysis by the Pew Research Center.
The US State Department on March 19 issued a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory, asking American citizens to avoid any global travel.
The European Union also started a 30-day ban on nonessential travel to at least 26 European countries from the rest of the world. — Gillian M. Cortez