Task force recommends travel ban to South Korea, other provinces

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The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) recommended  to impose travel restrictions for passengers from North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, effective immediately,  Health Secretary  Francisco Duque III said.

Duque, also head of the IATF-EID,  said Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of permanent resident and diplomatic visas will be allowed entry subject to existing screening and quarantine protocols.

“The travel restriction will be reviewed and re-evaluated within the next 48 hours based on new developments,” said Duque.

On the other hand, Duque  said any travel to South Korea will be temporarily suspended.

Only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and OFWs returning for work will be allowed provided that they sign a written declaration acknowledging the risks involved which will be complemented with a health advisory pamphlet, said Duque.  

The Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) repatriated 445 Overseas Filipinos (OFs) from the M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship late night of February 25.

Returning OFs were transported in two batches of 309 and 136, respectively.

Among the 445 repatriated OFs are 440 crew members and five (5) tourists.

They are currently quarantined at the New Athletes’ Villge in New Clark City (NCC), Capas, Tarlac, together with the 13 repatriation team members from DOH (9) and DFA (4).

This brought to 458 the total of persons under quarantine.

Duque said President Rodrigo Duterte has directed IATF-EID) to take all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safe return of the  Filipinos  aboard the cruise ship.  

“The well-being of our fellow Filipinos, no matter where they are, is of utmost importance,” Duque said.

DOH only allowed the repatriation of Filipinos who tested negative for the COVID-19 in Japan.

The repatriates underwent five levels of screening for fever and respiratory signs and symptoms — (1) prior to disembarking from the cruise ship, (2) before boarding the bus to Haneda airport, (3) during the flight, (4) upon landing at Clark Air Base, and (5) upon arrival at the quarantine facility.

All of the overseas Filipinos  were asymptomatic throughout the flight and were transferred directly to the quarantine facility in NCC.

Duque said quarantined individuals will be assessed twice daily, once via telemedicine and another assessment through actual physical examination.

They will be provided with food, hygiene kits and appropriate health services.

An ambulance team is also on standby 24/7 to conduct hospital referrals, if needed. DOH hospitals in Central Luzon are prepared to cater to those who may manifest respiratory symptoms or fever.

“As observed in other countries, there is still a possibility that our nationals may eventually test positive upon their return. We have prepared and equipped our hospitals and laboratory facilities, and allocated all necessary resources and PPEs (personal protective equipment)  should this happen,” Duque said.

The Department is continuously monitoring the situation and will update its 14-day prescribed quarantine procedure based on evidence and new developments.

“We have placed measures for the appropriate isolation and management of individuals who may eventually test positive for COVID-19 to contain transmission. We are ready to address any possible scenario,” said Duque.

“Our priority is always the welfare of our kababayans,” he said./ Stacy Ang 

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