PH imposes travel ban on South Korea's North Gyeongsang

TRAVELERS from North Gyeongsang province of South Korea are now barred from entering the Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced this in a press briefing Wednesday, February 26, saying the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging and Infectious Diseases approved the ban due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the South Korea's province.

Cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in South Korea jumped again Wednesday, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying 134 of the 169 new cases were in Daegu, a city in North Gyeongsang. Another 19 cases were in neighboring towns.

As of Wednesday afternoon, South Korea has 1,146 confirmed infections of the virus and 11 fatalities from the Covid-19 illness it causes.

The national government has been channeling medical personnel, protective suits and other supplies to Daegu, and there are concerns the local hospitals are being overwhelmed and fatigued doctors are becoming vulnerable to infections.

"This week will be critical in the fight to combat the illness," Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said at a meeting in Daegu City Hall to discuss quarantine efforts.

If the situation in South Korea worsens, Panelo said the IATF might expand the travel ban.

"The IATF shall conduct a risk assessment of the situation within 48 hours to analyze whether it is necessary to expand the travel ban," he said.

In the meantime, he added that strict protocol with respect to travelers entering the Philippines from North Gyeongsang will continue to be observed.

He clarified that the government only imposed the travel ban on North Gyeongsang, because it is only where the virus is concentrated.

"Yung iba, wala, malinis eh (The other areas are clear of the virus)," Panelo said.

He also said that the IATF has authorized Filipinos to travel to South Korea provided that they are permanent residents thereof or leaving for study, or are overseas Filipino workers.

"They [will be required to] execute and sign a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risk involved prior to their travel," Panelo said.

For Filipino tourists from the Philippines, they are advised not to travel to South Korea "for their safety," added Panelo.

"The safety and security of the Filipinos here and abroad remain our primary concern. Our countrymen's welfare is foremost in the mind of the President (Rodrigo Duterte), as well as concerned officials," he said.

He added that the IATF will continue to discuss the matter and make recommendations with respect to the management of the novel coronavirus.

For now, he said there is no travel ban for other countries with Covid-19 cases. (LMY/With AP/SunStar Philippines)