Entry of all foreigners banned amid rising number of COVID cases

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    THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has suspended the visa issuance and visa privileges of all foreigners entering the Philippines following the continued increase in confirmed cases of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

    Cabinet Secretary and concurrent IATF spokesman Karlo Nograles on Sunday said the visa suspension is “effectively immediately.”

    The suspension is part of a resolution issued by the task force that amended a set of guidelines enforced by the government in connection with declaration of a nationwide state of calamity and a public health emergency and the imposition of a Luzon-wide lockdown.

    Aside from suspending the issuance of visas, Nograles said government will also temporarily stop all visa-free privileges enjoyed by Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Region passport holders, Macau-Portuguese passport holders and British national overseas passport holders.

    Also barred from entering the country are foreigners with visas previously issued by Foreign Service Posts (FSPs), unless they are foreign spouses and children of Filipinos; and diplomats and accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents.

    The Department of Foreign Affairs will the issue the implementing circular relative to the visa suspension.

    Nograles said the IATF also approved the provision of accommodations for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during the mandatory quarantine procedure upon their return to the country.

    GOVERNMENT REMINDERS

    Nograles reiterated that the unimpeded movement of all types of cargo whether food and non-food items, and passage of personnel of business establishments permitted to operate during the enhanced community quarantine, should be observed to avert any  shortage of basic food, essential hygienic products, and medical products.

    Nograles likewise told local government executives to first coordinate with the Department of Health before acquiring, purchasing or utilizing testing kits within their territorial jurisdictions.

    He reminded business process outsourcing firms and export-oriented companies that starting Monday, 23 March, accommodations and shuttle services should already be in place for their employees. Employees of BPOs and export-oriented companies were among those exempted from the work stoppage order under the Luzon-wide ECQ.

    Nograles said the processing and issuance of IATF-accredited IDs for members of the media, the health sector and other industries exempted from the work stoppage has been extended to March 26.

    He said members of media should get their accreditation from the Presidential Communication Operations Office-International Press Center, while members of the health sector should be accredited by the DOH. Accreditation is limited to up to 50 percent of the offices’ total permanent staff.

    He said bona fide IDs issued by exempted establishments or offices shall continue to be honored by law enforcement agencies so as to exempt the bearers from the strict home quarantine requirements.

    Nograles said the IATF also approved the exemptions from the work stoppage rule of employees from manufacturing and processing plants of basic and essential food products, medicine and medical supplies, essential hygiene products; retail establishments like groceries, supermarkets, convenience stores, public markets, and dug stores; logistics service providers like cargo handling, warehousing, trucking, freight forwarding, and shipping line; hospitals and medical clinics; food preparations and water refilling stations; delivery services for transporting food, water, medicine or other basic necessities; and banks and capital markets.

    Also exempted are personnel of firms engaged in power and energy transmission and distribution, electric power plant and line maintenance, as well as those involved in exploration, operations, trading and delivery of coal, oil or any kind of fuel used to produce electricity; IT and telecommunications supplies and facilities, including telcos-related work force, those who perform indirect services such as the security, technical, sales and other support personnel, as well as employees of their third-party contractors doing sales, installation, maintenance and repair works.

    Likewise included in the exemption list are company workers engaged in waste disposal services and airline and aircraft maintenance employees, including pilot and crew, and ship captain and crew.

    Nograles said pastors, priests, imams and other religious ministers will only be allowed exemption from the movement stoppage when they need to conduct necrological or funeral rites.

    Government also exempted from the work and movement stoppage the heads of mission of designated foreign mission representatives, including a limited number of their personnel or staff, and the skeletal forces of different government offices.

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