THE Philippines will consider a travel ban for Italy and Iran and may expand restrictions for South Korea as a novel coronavirus outbreak spreads to these countries, authorities said on Monday.
“We will focus on certain countries that are showing the most activity in terms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo R. Meñez told a briefing.
The virus has killed about 3,000 people and sickened 88,000 more, mostly in China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than 3,700 people have been infected in South Korea, the biggest number of infections outside China.
Almost 1,700 people have tested positive for the deadly virus in Italy, a 50% jump from a day earlier. Almost a thousand people have been infected in Iran.
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 it was first detected.
Two of the patients have recovered and one has died, according to the local Health department.
Mr. Meñez said there were 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, he added.
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario C. Vergeire told a separate briefing the Philippines would decide on these three countries based on the number of transmissions, volume of travelers to the Philippines and their capacity to handle the outbreak.
The government was also studying whether there is a need for Filipinos there to come home, she said.
Meanwhile, more than 500 patients under investigation for COVID-19 in the Philippines have been discharged from hospitals, the Health department said in a statement.
It added that 43 patients were still being monitored in health facilities.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III traced the lower numbers to heightened surveillance, early travel restrictions and enhanced laboratory processes.
“But this is not enough reason to let our guards down,” he said in the statement. “The DOH will continuously assess the situation and improve its surveillance protocols based on evidence and further developments.” — Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas