Philippines mulls wider travel ban on virus-hit South Korea


Posted at Feb 27 2020 08:03 AM | Updated as of Feb 27 2020 09:06 AM

Passengers wearing protective masks walk towards the departure entrance of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, Feb. 18, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA — The Philippines is assessing the risk of a wider travel ban on South Korea, after barring travelers from its coronavirus-impacted North Gyeongsang province in an effort to contain the spread of the pathogen, Manila's health minister said Thursday.

An inter-agency task force on Friday will meet about potentially expanding the travel restriction on South Korea, a top tourism market of the Philippines, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

"Titingnan kung baka palawigin pa ito. Mabilis magbago ang numero [ng mga may coronavirus] kaya nakakapangamba ito," he told DZMM.
(We will look at whether this should be expanded. The tally of those infected is changing quickly so this is worrisome.)

South Korea reported 284 new infections Wednesday -- its largest daily increase to date -- taking the overall national tally to 1,261, with the death toll rising to 12.

It remains the most-affected country after China, with the outbreak traced to a religious sect in the southern city of Daegu.

South Korea produced the most overseas visitors to the Philippines in 2019, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said last January without giving exact figures.

In 2018, South Korea accounted for 22.3 percent of the total tourist arrivals in the Philippines, with some 1.6 million visitors, according to data from the trade department.

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Manila so far confirmed 3 imported coronavirus cases, including 1 death, all from the Chinese central city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected in December.

Filipino tourists are barred from traveling to South Korea, including its popular Jeju Island, officials said Wednesday.

Exempted from the ban are Filipinos who are workers, students, and permanent residents of South Korea, as long as they sign a written declaration signifying their knowledge of the “risks” of traveling there.

With a report from Agence France-Presse