No travel ban on Iran but visa-on-arrival halted — PH gov’t

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2020 03:35 PM | Updated as of Mar 04 2020 05:08 PM

No travel ban on Iran but visa-on-arrival halted — PH gov’t 1
Iranian people wear protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus, in Tehran, Iran February 29, 2020. WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Nazanin Tabatabaee via Reuters

MANILA — Despite Iran now having the fourth highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Philippine government said it won’t impose a travel ban.

“The IATF (inter-agency task force) felt that the ban for Iran is not called for as of now,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters on Wednesday.

“The volume of travelers is low. So the risk of spread, risk of entering the Philippines of any infected case, is also low,” he explained. “But this is a day-to-day assessment that is happening.”

Duque said the task force, which is headed by the Department of Health, can still change its decision as the situation changes.

The same goes for the countries of Italy, Japan and Singapore, which also have high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“Ang naging pasya ay hindi natin sila isasama sa travel ban. Mukhang as a medium-risk lang sila,” he said, explaining that the three countries and Iran meet only five out of nine criteria for a travel ban.

Currently, the Philippines has a travel ban on China and a selective travel ban on South Korea.

Of the more than 90,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide, 80,000 are in China and more than 4,800 are in South Korea. Italy now has more than 2,000 cases, Iran has more than 1,500 and Japan has more than 200 cases. Other countries with more than a hundred cases are France, Germany, Spain and Singapore.

NO VISA UPON ARRIVAL

While travelers from Iran are still allowed to enter the Philippines, the government has already stopped issuing visas-on-arrival.

Duque said the Department of Foreign Affairs would have information on why they decided to do that.

“What I know is that (Iran) has among the highest fatality rate at 7.3 percent,” he said, pointing out that China itself only has a fatality rate of 3.8 to 4 percent within Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19.

“So, nakakatakot ito. Mukhang very rapid ang transmission pero we do not know if the high case-fatality rate is on account of weak surveillance, hindi nare-report ang tunay na bilang ng infected individuals pero nahuhuli nila ang nagkakaroon ng severe if not critical condition,” he said in reference to the epidemic in Iran. 

(So this is scary. It seems that there is very rapid transmission but we do not know if the high case-fatality rate is on account of weak surveillance that they are not able to report the number of infected individuals but they are able to monitor those with severe, if not critical condition.”