BY Ashzel Hachero
and Jocelyn Montemayor
QATAR has imposed a ban on travelers coming from 14 countries, including the Philippines, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to the Philippine Embassy in Doha, Qatar.
Ambassador Alan Timbayan said they were informed of the issuance of the ban by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Filipino community in the State of Qatar is informed that Qatar announced that it is imposing a temporary entry restriction on Doha-bound passengers who travelled to the following countries in the last 14 days,” Timbayan said.
Aside from the Philippines, also covered by the ban are travelers from Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, South Korea, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand.
A statement issued by the government communication office of Qatar said the move was a “preventive measure” due to the spread of the coronavirus worldwide.
“This step comes in line with the decision of the State of Qatar to take all necessary preventive measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus,” it added.
It stressed that the measure “maybe subject to further updates based on the latest guidance of the national health authorities and international organization on the spread of COVID-19.
There are an estimated 241,000 Filipinos living and working in Qatar.
The Department of Foreign Affairs advised Filipinos travelling abroad to be aware of the current bans and restrictions issued by some nations either directly against the Philippines or against countries with confirmed coronavirus cases.
DFA Assistant Secretary Eduadro Menez said that since last week several countries had issued travel restrictions, like Saudi Arabia that banned holders of Umrah and tourists visas.
Menez said Filipinos who hold visas for employment, work visit, business visit, and family visit are still allowed entry into Saudi Arabia.
He said Kuwait had suspended flights between the Gulf state and seven countries, including the Philippines since March 6, while Doha-bound passengers who traveled to COVID -19-affected countries since March 9, 2020 are also barred entry into Qatar.
The Cook Islands had also banned travelers from all COVID 19-stricken countries, including the Philippines, within 14 days prior to their visit to the South Pacific nation. The travel restriction is subject to a weekly review.
Menez said Filipino travelers are also advised about the temporary ban issued by the Palestinian government against the entry of all tourists especially into the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho.
He said the Israeli government has also restricted all travel to Bethlehem from Israel. He added that Nepal had suspended its visa on arrival facility for all tourists since March 7 while the Fijian government had advised all cruise ships entering the waters of Fiji to dock at the ports in Suva or Lautoka where all the passengers are subject to medical and travel history checks.
The Philippines had previously imposed a travel ban on travelers coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and from North Gyeongsang in South Korea and barred Filipinos from visiting these places.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in a briefing in Malacanang, said there are no plans to lift the travel ban to China at the moment.
Chief Presidential Legala Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said President Duterte would decide on the lifting of the ban based on the recommendations of the Department of Health and the World Health Organization.
INFECTED PINOYS ABROAD
Menez said the government is monitoring the condition of two Filipinos in Lebanon who had been in quarantined at a hospital in Beirut after contracting the virus.
He said the DFA is also monitoring the cases of other Filipinos who are either still in quarantine or had been released after recovering in Hong Kong (4), Singapore (3) and United Arab Emirates (2).
In Japan, 40 of the 80 Filipinos from the cruise ship Diamond Princess who had contracted the virus had recovered, with 21 of them back in the Philippines.
Menez said the DFA is also monitoring the situation of 529 Filipino crew members and nine passengers of the cruise ship MV Grand Princess docked off the coast of California.