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Korea travel ban not yet in effect, DOH clarifies

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:52 AM February 28, 2020

Travel between the Philippines and South Korea may continue, at least up to Saturday.

Assistant Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire clarified on Thursday that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases resolution imposing a temporary ban on travel to and from South Korea would take effect 48 hours after being signed. The resolution was expected to be released later Thursday.

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“It is in need of one more signature. After it is signed and released today (Thursday), the agencies have 48 hours to fully implement it,” Vergeire told reporters by phone.

The government announced the ban on Wednesday as South Korea reported more infections with the new coronavirus that was spreading from China.

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Six flights from South Korea were canceled on the same day after the Philippine government barred travelers from North Gyeongsang province, where the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, Daegu city, is located.

Not yet in effect

The Bureau of Immigration (BI), however, said the travel ban was not yet in effect, as it was still waiting to get a copy of the task force resolution and clarification on how to “target arriving passengers coming from Daegu and North Gyeongsang.”

The ban does not cover Filipino migrant workers, students, foreign spouses and children of Filipinos in South Korea, and diplomats. Tourist travel to and from North Gyeongsang is temporarily suspended.

The Department of Health (DOH) office in Central Visayas said 26 tourists from Daegu arrived in Cebu on Tuesday night but they would not be quarantined for 14 days, unlike travelers from China and its two administrative regions—Hong Kong and Macau.

“There is no need to quarantine these 26 Koreans since they arrived before the travel ban on North Gyeongsang, where Daegu city is located, was imposed,” Jaime Bernadas, DOH director for Central Visayas, said on Thursday. “For now, we will just monitor them. If they have symptoms, then we will place them in hospitals.”

South Korea reported another 334 more cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 1,595. Most of the cases were in Daegu.

But there are signs the virus is spreading in other parts of South Korea, with 55 cases reported so far in the capital, Seoul, and 58 in the second-largest city, Busan.

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The country on Thursday also confirmed its 13th death. Most of the deaths were in and near Daegu.

South Korea has the most number of cases outside China, where the new coronavirus emerged late last year. As of Thursday, China has reported 78,497 infections and 2,744 deaths.

Vergeire said the DOH had received information that Filipinos in Daegu were safe despite the outbreak so there was no need yet to evacuate them.

The interagency task force, however, will discuss a request for evacuation from Filipinos in Macau, she said.

On Tuesday, the government evacuated 440 Filipinos from the coronavirus-wracked cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan and put them in quarantine for 14 days at Athletes’ Village at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac province.

Repatriates well

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III gave assurance on Wednesday that the Filipinos, mostly members of the ship’s crew, and the 13 members of the rescue team from the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) were doing fine.

On Thursday, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong reported that a second Filipino migrant worker in the Chinese semiautonomous city had tested positive for the new coronavirus just as the first had appeared to have recovered.

The consulate said the migrant, a 28-year-old woman, had informed its staff by phone that she was receiving treatment in hospital and that she had no more fever.

The first Filipino migrant worker to have been infected will be discharged from hospital later this week if her follow-up tests for the virus remain negative, the consulate said.

Six other Filipinos in Hong Kong who were exposed to the virus went into quarantine for two weeks. Three were released on Feb. 15 and two were discharged on Feb. 25 after showing no symptoms.

The other one will complete her quarantine on Friday. “She is healthy and asymptomatic and will be released [Friday],” the consulate said. —WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN, DALE ISRAEL AND AP

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