The Department of Health (DOH) said that the temporary travel restrictions in the Philippines due to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak now also covers Taiwan.
“Since we have a temporary travel restriction on China, then Taiwan is included,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said during a press briefing on Monday.
Earlier, however, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo said the inclusion of Taiwan in the travel ban is “not yet agreed or final.”
Domingo said that while there was some confusion over the inclusion of Taiwan in the ban, the restrictions have been enforced on travelers coming from the said country since late last week.
“As of now, as a part of the restriction of travel from China, Taiwan is included,” Domingo said.
“When we asked the World Health Organization very, very clearly, they always refer to just one China and Taiwan is included, even in their official reports,” Domingo added.
Under the travel restrictions imposed by Malacañang last week, travelers coming from China, Hong Kong, and Macau are temporarily barred from entering the Philippines while Filipinos and Philippine permanent resident visa holders coming from the same countries must undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Taiwan confirmed its 18th confirmed nCoV case on Sunday.
Taiwan has sent notice that it wants to appeal the ban.
The ban is among the topics that will be discussed during the Wednesday meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases led by the DOH.
Another issue that will be discussed is whether there will be a new batch of Filipinos that will be repatriated from the Philippines.
Domingo said travelers from Taiwan will simply undergo the same ban as those coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau.
“And Filipinos coming back are the only ones that will be allowed in (the country). Filipinos and permanent residents,” he said.
Domingo also explained that the travel ban is just temporary and it can be changed by the Task Force depending on their assessment of the situation.
While most of the tens of thousands of infected patients are in China, some have made their way to other parts of the globe. In the Philippines, all three cases of the 2019-nCoV are travelers from China.
In a related development, the DOH said there is no conclusive evidence yet showing that the 2019-nCoV is an airborne disease.
Domingo said the WHO is still studying the possibility that 2019-nCoV is an airborne infection.
“They said that there’s nothing conclusive about it at this time. It’s still being studied by the WHO but of course, you know, precautions are still to be taken,” he said.
“Until we’re given any hard evidence, right now, the WHO has not classified it as an airborne infection.”
The 2019-nCoV has so far claimed over 900 lives and infected over 40,000 others worldwide. In the Philippines, there are three confirmed 2019-nCoV cases while over 300 people are under investigation for possible infection./Stacy Ang