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Manila eases Korea ban, vows not to restrict travel

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THE Philippines has partially lifted its travel ban on South Korea and won’t restrict travel to other countries amid a novel coronavirus outbreak, according to the presidential palace.

An inter-agency task force met on Tuesday and agreed to allow Filipinos to go to South Korea except to North Gyeongsang province, where infections have multiplied in the past weeks, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday placed all government agencies on a 24-hour emergency alert as the country’s total cases — the largest in the world outside China — neared 5,000.

Worldwide, more than 3,100 people have died, while infection cases have passed 90,000, mostly in China, according to the World Health Organization.

“All Filipinos who intend to visit other parts of South Korea shall execute and sign a declaration, signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved in their trip,” he said.

“A health advisory pamphlet shall likewise be handed out to them upon their departure,” he added.

The ban on foreigners traveling from North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, to the Philippines stays, Mr. Panelo said.

The task force also agreed that “there are to be no new imposition of travel restrictions or lifting of the same as regards other countries or jurisdictions, the spokesman said.

The Philippines will regularly review travel restrictions and protocols to and from the Philippines, he added.

The government also expanded travel exemptions, allowing dependents of permanent residents of South Korea, Hong Kong and Macau to travel to these areas as long as they sign the risk declaration.

The Tourism department had estimated P42.9 billion in losses from February to April as flights got canceled and events were postponed.

South Korea has enforced stringent infection control measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a separate statement. He also said South Korea had reported a fatality rate of only 0.5%.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it was preparing for the return of 148 Filipinos from Macau via a chartered flight, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration was arranging to repatriate 48 members from there through a commercial flight.

Authorities are “on top of the situation” as the country aims to “protect the safety and health of our people,” Mr. Panelo said.

The Philippines has not reported a coronavirus infection for weeks and only three people have been confirmed to have been infected, all Chinese nationals from Wuhan City, where the virus was first detected.

Two of the patients have recovered and one has died, according to the local Health department.

There are 6,139 Filipinos in South Korea, 161,885 in Italy and 1,181 in Iran. No Filipino had been infected in any of these countries, according to DFA.

Also yesterday, a third case involving a Filipino was confirmed in Singapore.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health in a report said a 34-year old Filipina with a work pass was confirmed to have been infected on March 2. — NPA and CAT





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