MANILA, Philippines – Several lawmakers on Thursday called on the government to impose a temporary ban on the entry of visitors from China to avert the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) in the country.
“I think it is time to put a temporary ‘Do not enter sign’ on our doorstep for visitors from China,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement.
Recto believes that visitors from China will understand the country’s action to temporarily close its doors as it is consistent with the Chinese government’s efforts to stave off the spread of the deadly virus.
“Let us explain to them that we are not permanently closing our doors. This is not a permanent Great Wall. This is only during the duration of the coronavirus crisis,” Recto said.
“We will only be borrowing a page from their manual. If Hong Kong has drastically reduced high-speed train and ferry services from China, then why can’t we do the same?” he added, referring to the territory’s decision to slash cross-border travel with mainland China.
He also said that even China has quarantined 40 million of its people, confining them in their homes and restricting their travel.
“If many of their people are not allowed to travel from Point A to B in China, then why are we allowing travel from most points in China to all points in the Philippines?” Recto said.
“There is no hint of racism or xenophobia in this policy. This is an assertion of the national wellbeing. And an acceptance of the fact that our defenses and capacity to respond to a health emergency is not that strong,” he added.
“When China sneezes, we get pneumonia. If that is the case, then an ounce of border control is worth a ton of cure.”
In a separate statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said that all travelers from China and all those who passed through China in the past two weeks should be temporarily banned for at least 30 days.
“Our travel ban must firmly include both air and sea travel to prevent a local outbreak. This includes a temporary ban on all cruise ships from docking at any of our ports,” she said.
“I also urge the Bureau of Quarantine to implement mandatory quarantine to all those who have just arrived from China, to remain vigilant and to study the safety measures of our neighboring countries with confirmed cases of nCoV,” she added.
Hontiveros said her proposed temporary travel ban will give local health authorities more time to set in place all necessary safeguards.
“I also call on our public health units, especially our barangay health centers, to engage in active community surveillance,” she added.
Senator Joel Villanueva also appealed to the government to prioritize the safety and security of Filipinos and impose travel restrictions to and from China.
He also called on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who are about to be deployed to China to postpone their trips indefinitely “to minimize the risk of being infected with the virus.
“For OFWs stranded in the quarantine areas, please follow the health protocol being observed in the area. Help our diplomatic staff there by notifying your status so that every Filipino is accounted for,” he said.
Villanueva also appealed to the public to follow safety precautions, and refrain from spreading fake news on social media to avoid inciting fear and panic.
“Finally, we ask our health department to intensify its information dissemination campaign, and ensure that our health facilities are properly equipped to handle the spread of this virus,” he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday confirmed the country’s first case of 2019 novel coronavirus – a 38-year old female from China who arrived in the country on January 21.
As of Thursday, Chinese health authorities said the deaths due to novel coronavirus has climbed to 170 with confirmed cases of 7,736. Suspected cases, meanwhile, reached 12,167.
Outside of mainland China, more than 90 confirmed cases have been reported, 71 from other countries with three nations confirming person-to-person transmission.
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