Duterte widens travel ban from China to Hong Kong, Macau

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Passengers, some wearing protective masks, wait for their flights at the Manila’s international airport Philippines on Feb 3, 2020. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved a temporary ban on all travellers, except Filipinos, from China and its autonomous regions. Precautionary measures have been tightened around the country following the report of the first death of a new virus outside of China. (AARON FAVILA / AP)

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a temporary travel ban on travelers coming from mainland China as well as Hong Kong and Macau amid the threat of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines, Malacañang said over the weekend. 

The ban will cover all foreigners arriving from China and its territories, including those who visited the region within 14 days, according to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Sunday, February 2. 

He also said that only Filipino citizens and those who hold a permanent resident visa issued by the Philippine government can enter the country, but they will need to undergo a 14-day quarantine period.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, meanwhile, has been given the authority “to ban the entry of travelers from other areas with confirmed widespread 2019-nCoV ARD (acute respiratory disease)”  if necessary.

On Friday, January 31, Duterte received flak from netizens after he ordered a ban on travelers only coming from the Hubei province in China.

Hubei province is where Wuhan City is located, the epicenter of the 2019-nCoV.

“We have immediately implemented the expanded travel ban, hence all foreign nationals, regardless of their nationality, who will be coming from China and its Special Administrative Regions shall be turned back and not allowed to enter the Philippines,” said Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente in a statement.

“We urge everyone to temporarily refrain from unnecessary travel, and to bear with the government as we implement this measure,” he added.

Suspected PH cases of nCoV rise to 80

The Department of Health on Monday, February 3, revealed that there are now 80 individuals under investigation (PUIs) for suspected infection of 2019-nCoV.

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, 67 out of the 80 patients were placed in isolation in hospitals while 10 have already been discharged as they were found to be negative for the deadly virus.

He added that 30 of the PUIs also tested negative but remain under strict monitoring.

The DOH confirmed Thursday the first 2019-nCoV case in the Philippines — a 38-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in the country via Hong Kong last January 21.

Her companion, a 44-year-old male, was confirmed to be the second case as well as the first confirmed carrier of the virus in the country.

The second case passed away on February 1 after he was confined for fever, cough and sore throat. 

According to Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the World Health Organization’s Representative in the Philippines, his death is the first new coronavirus-related death outside of China. 

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