Philippines bans entry of foreigners amid COVID-19 threat

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin on Thursday said  that the Philippines is banning the entry of all foreigners to the Philippines in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Starting today, all our Embassies and Consulates will temporarily suspend visa issuance to all foreign nationals as well as the visa-free privileges of all foreign nationals,” Locsin said on Twitter.

“We are stopping the issuance of visas from all posts abroad and here,” Locsin said.

“This goes one imperative step forward: a total ban on incoming foreign visitors of all nationalities no exceptions,” Locsin said.

Outgoing foreign visitors, he added, “should be given all the help to get out,” adding it would be “idiotic to detain them.”

“Moreover, all previously issued Philippine visas to foreign nationals are deemed cancelled,” he added.

“Visas already issued to foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals remain valid,” Locsin said.

Earlier, Locsin said the government may “consider”suspending visa issuance at least for the month-long quarantine period enforced in Luzon, where the country’s main airport is located.  He said the agency will consult the Department of Tourism (DOT) about the possible move.

He also earlier said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)  was looking into halting all visa-free privileges except for neighboring nations in Southeast Asia.

Locsin’s  new tweet, however, shows visa-free privilege for visitors from the rest of the 10-member the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will also be temporarily stopped.

Currently, over a hundred countries— including African, European, and South American nations— enjoy the visa-free policy in the Philippines.

The government also earlier imposed travel restrictions on foreign visitors coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea’s North Gyeongsang province due to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. These include the Immigration Bureau’s temporary suspension of the visa upon arrival scheme for Chinese nationals.

The rapid spike in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines— which topped 200 as of Thursday— prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Luzon under “enhanced” community quarantine.

The directive restricts movement of people, and bans Luzon-wide transportation services including land, air, and sea travel until April 13.

Globally, the infectious disease has affected more than 218,000 people in 158 different countries including China, where the mysterious virus first spread. The death toll from COVID-19 has also reached over 8,800 worldwide— with 17 fatalities recorded in the Philippines.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Philippines has 217 positive COVID-19 infections and 17 deaths across the country./Stacy Ang

 

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