MANILA (2nd UPDATE)—More than 160 Filipinos from Macau arrived here Saturday afternoon after being flown out of the Chinese territory amid the continuing spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
"Touch down! The chartered flight arranged by the Philippine government carrying a total of 163 Filipinos from Macau has now landed in Manila. Welcome home, mga kababayan," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Twitter.
But five passengers were unable to board for various reasons, according to the DFA, while another passenger joined late.
"We thank the authorities of Macau, in close coordination with the Philippine Consulate General in the aforesaid Special Administrative Region, for arranging this repatriation flight," Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"With the surge of news reports on the coronavirus disease 2019, the Philippine Government remains ready and is prepared in serving and protecting Filipinos here and abroad."
The repatriates were received at Ninoy Aquino International Airport by officials of the DFA and its Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA), before undergoing medical procedures by the Bureau of Quarantine.
The Department of Health said the first batch of Filipinos repatriated from Macau will undergo health assessment.
"Silang lahat ay mag-undergo ng assessment, titingnan kung sino sa kanila ang may sintomas," said Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in an earlier press briefing Saturday.
The Philippines has a standing travel ban on China, including Hong Kong and Macau, following the outbreak of the acute respiratory disease, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The Philippine government relaxed restrictions last month, but only for Filipinos returning to Hong Kong and Macau.
Philippine health authorities on Saturday raised Code Red after confirmed another case of COVID-19 in the wife of a patient earlier diagnosed with the infection, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 6.
It also sought a declaration of state of public health emergency, which President Rodrigo Duterte has already approved, according to Sen. Bong Go.