PH gov’t urged to suspend issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan, other nCoV-hit Chinese areas

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – A lawmaker on Wednesday urged the Philippine government to suspend the issuance of all visas to visitors from Wuhan and other parts of China reported to have been hit by the spread of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan renewed his call for the suspension of visa issuances to Chinese nationals as the deadly virus continues to spread rapidly.

“Visa upon arrival lang ang suspended para sa mga Chinese. Yung tours, delegates, at businessmen, tulad nung cruise ships sa Subic, tuloy-tuloy pa. Dapat lahat,” Pangilinan said, referring to a cruise ship carrying close to 1,000 Chinese tourists that arrived in Manila from Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The cruise ship M/V World Dream and its 778 passengers were authorized to travel by the Bureau of Quarantine after it was declared cleared and safe during a mandatory inspection.

The ship was supposed to arrive at Subic Bay on Wednesday but it decided to cancel its arrival and head back to Hong Kong after residents and local officials in Olongapo protested the scheduled port call.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Tuesday, January 28 announced the temporary suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) issuance for Chinese nationals following concerns on the spread of the novel coronavirus in China and other countries.

The bureau said the move aims to slowdown the influx of Chinese group tours in the Philippines, and possibly help prevent the entry of the new coronavirus strain. However, it clarified that there is no order yet barring Chinese nationals from entering the country.

Pangilinan also questioned the “unequal treatment” for Filipino and Chinese travelers after the Department of Health (DOH) said it would quarantine Filipinos who will be repatriated from China.

“But what is the rule for the thousands of Chinese arrivals? Bakit mga turistang Chinese galing China sakay ng cruise ship as per Bureau of Quarantine at Coast Guard, walang quarantine?” he said.

“DoH at Malacañang, kumilos kayo agad at huwag papasukin ang mga turista galing ng China habang nariyan ang outbreak,” he added.

Pangilinan also said that as of Tuesday, even Chinese authorities have suspended air and rail travel in the area around Wuhan and have since expanded the travel ban to 16 surrounding cities with a combined population of more than 50 million people.

Aside from China, he said Malaysia has suspended the issuance of visas for Chinese citizens from Wuhan and the areas around Hubei province to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV).

He also noted that the US State Department has issued a travel advisory to “reconsider travel to China due to novel coronavirus,” while the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued warning Level 3 urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China, and Level 4 which means a ban on travel to Hubei province.

Chinese National Health Commission on Wednesday reported that the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases has reached 5,974 as the death toll rose to 132.

The current figure of 2019-nCoV infection in mainland China has overtaken the 5,327 reported number of people infected by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2002-2003. SARS outbreak killed more than 770 people globally, including 349 in China.

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