Travel ban to South Korea lifted

File Photo: A girl wearing a mask skips rope at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

FILIPINOS are now allowed to travel to South Korea as the Philippines, on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, relaxed its travel restrictions to the East Asian nation.

However, the ban on the entry of foreign nationals traveling from North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, into the Philippines remains effective.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a statement, said the decision was made by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) during its ninth meeting on Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, at the Department of Health (DOH) central office on Tuesday.

“The IATF has approved to allow Filipinos to travel to South Korea except to the whole of North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County where the virus is concentrated,” Panelo said.

“All Filipinos who intend to visit other parts of South Korea shall execute and sign a declaration, signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved in their trip. A health advisory pamphlet shall likewise be handed out to them upon their departure,” he added.

Previously, only Korean permanent resident visa holders, overseas Filipino workers and student visa holders were allowed to go to South Korea as the government first imposed a twin travel ban on Filipino tourists to South Korea and those from North Gyeongsang province to the Philippines last Feb. 26.

The Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos) welcomed the IATF’s decision to allow Filipinos to travel to South Korea except to the province of North Gyeongsang.

“We hope it gives a signal for both domestic and international tourists to travel in and out of Cebu. We’re hoping this will stimulate the traveling activities of tourists,” Catos president Alice Queblatin said.

South Korea saw its largest daily increase in new Covid-19 cases Tuesday, with 851 new infections reported, largely in and around the southeastern city of Daegu, where many cases were clustered around a local church.

In all, 5,186 people in South Korea have tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday, largely in and around Daegu, with 31 deaths.

Meanwhile, the chief of the Regional Anti-Cyber Crime Unit (Racu) has appealed to the public to stop sharing false information on Cebu hotels that allegedly checked in Korean nationals who slipped through the mandatory government quarantine.

Police Col. Marlo Castillo said charges were already filed by Racu 7 against those responsible for the fake news.

“We’re waiting for the warrant of arrest, Castillo said.

He said only the DOH had the right to issue reports on the Covid-19.

On Feb. 18, Racu 7 filed a case for cyber libel against Josephil Brian Consuelo, an optometrist, for posting a false report on Facebook that a foreigner died of Covid-19 in a hospital in Mandaue City.

Online libel is punishable under Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code.

Central Visayas remained novel coronavirus-free as of Tuesday, March 3.

Patients under investigation

The DOH 7 reported that there were no more patients under investigation (PUIs) for Covid-19 admitted in any of the region’s hospitals.

All of the 61 PUIs admitted in the region since Jan. 28 had already been discharged although they were still being monitored, the DOH 7 said.

PUIs are those who recently traveled to mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong and manifested symptoms of Covid-19 or those that had contact with persons found positive for the novel coronavirus and manifest symptoms of the virus. The symptoms include, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

No new confirmed Covid-19 patients were recorded anywhere in the country although the DOH continued to monitor a total of 639 cases nationwide.

Of the number, 613 PUIs were already discharged but are still being monitored by the DOH, while 23 PUIs remained in isolation in various hospitals.

The only three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country—the 38-year-old woman from Wuhan, China; her 44-year-old male partner who died; and the 60-year-old Chinese woman who already returned to China, were included in the tally.

Globally, a total of 88,948 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded as of Monday, March 2. Of the number, 80,174 came from mainland China.

Other developments:

The Philippine Government will repatriate overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong and Macau who had lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak there.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on his official Twitter account said he wanted the repatriation of the fired OFWs done immediately.

Locsin was reacting to a GMA News report that said domestic workers in Hong Kong were being fired for reasons such as arguments over the time they were allowed to spend outside the house on their days off amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We’ll prepare for their repatriation pronto,” said Locsin.

“Deeply disgusted with HK which begged us to let domestic workers return to work. I extracted promise from Chinese ambassador that they’d be given same protection from Covid-19 as HK residents. I should have specified ‘from Hongkongers,’” Locsin said in his tweet.

At least two Filipino migrant workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Hong Kong as of last month.

Of the two Covid-19 affected overseas Filipino workers, one is scheduled to be released while the other is still in isolation. (SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES, JKV, AYB, JOB, WBS with AP )