Travel restrictions for Korea relaxed—Duque

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Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has  said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) opted to relax the travel restrictions on South Korea as dependents of permanent residents of this country and Hong Kong, Macau  are now exempted from the travel ban imposed by the Philippine government.

Duque cited South Korea’s low fatality rate of 0.5% and the containment of local transmission to only certain areas.

He said the travel restriction  in these countries was enforced as stringent infection control measures to contain the spread of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Duque said the IATF-EID provides that  Filipinos bound for those places will be allowed to travel provided that they sign a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved. It was not immediately clear if the same exemption applies to inbound Filipino dependents.

He said the decision was made during the IATF’s ninth meeting on Tuesday.  It was also resolved during the meeting to partially lift the travel restrictions on South Korea, paving the way for the resumption of Filipino tourist visits to the East Asian nation.

“The IATF-EID is closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 cases in other countries and is regularly updating its travel restrictions based on standardized risk assessment indicators,” said Duque.

He said they are working nonstop to ensure that the  Filipinos are protected from COVID-19 no matter where they are.

The Philippines has also implemented travel restrictions on mainland China, where the virus originated.

Meanwhile, Duque also said at  least 196 Filipinos from Macau will be repatriated this week amid the outbreak of COVID-19. They will be treated as persons under monitoring (PUMs)  by the DOH.

As PUMs, he said the repatriated Filipinos will have to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive in the country.

Duque said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will assist the 148 Filipinos from Macau, while the remaining 48 will be assisted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) since they are active members of the agency.

“The task force approved the plan for the DFA to repatriate 148 OFs (overseas Filipinos) from Macau via chartered flight within the week and for OWWA to repatriate 48 active OWWA members via commercial flight,” he said.

Like the previous batches of repatriated Filipinos, the two new batches will undergo the same protocol set by the government in light of COVID-19 spread prevention.

At least 458 Filipinos from the repatriation mission in virus-hit cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan are under quarantine at the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City since February 26.

Initially, 80 overseas Filipinos in the ship tested positive for COVID-19 and stayed in Japan.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in the briefing that 40 of them have recovered, adding that 21 have already returned to the country.

Meanwhile, Vergeire said one of the  16 symptomatic patients repatriated from the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship has been admitted to a hospital in Tarlac due to diarrhea.

She said the  other 15 were returned to quarantine quarters in New Clark City in Capas town from different hospitals nearby after their specimens tested negative for the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

The sample taken from the confined repatriate, whose age and gender was not disclosed, Vegeire said was brought to Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City for evaluation.

More than 400 Filipinos evacuated from the cruise ship arrived in the Philippines on February 25. They were directly ferried to New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, for the mandatory 14-day quarantine./Stacy Ang

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