SoKor travel ban not yet in effect

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    THE Department of Health yesterday said the partial travel ban imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on travel to and from South Korea is not yet in effect.

    Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the order of the IATF-EID actually provides a 48-hour allowance for airports to implement.

    “The IATF-EID gave 48 hours allowance to implementing agencies so they can properly implement this. So let us wait for that. Once they receive the resolution, within 48 hours, they should already be able to implement the temporary restriction,” said Vergeire.

    “Once the IATF resolution has been signed, we count 48 hours. That’s the time it becomes effective. As of now, we are still waiting for one more signature. Within the day, we can already come out with the Resolution,” said Vergeire.

    Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Wednesday the partial ban is effective “immediately.”

    The clarification comes amid the reported confusion in the country’s airports on when the temporary travel ban will actually take effect.

    Based on the IATF-EID resolution, there shall be travel restrictions for passengers from the North Gyeongsang province of South Korea. Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of permanent resident and diplomatic visas will, however, be allowed entry to the Philippines subject to screening and quarantine protocols.

    Any travel to the whole of South Korea will be temporarily suspended. Only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and OFWs will be allowed to leave for South Korea provided they sign a written declaration acknowledging the risks involved, furthered the IATF-EID decision.

    Amid the confusion, Vergeire said the DOH-Central Visayas is searching for 26 South Koreans who arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Cebu on Tuesday night.

    The 26 reportedly came from Daegu, which is one of the two the epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea.

    “We already coordinated with the regional office. They already submitted an initial report saying they have already gone to the place where the South Koreans are staying to properly advise them,” she said.

    Asked whether the South Koreans will be repatriated once they are found, Vergeire said, “That is not the correct process because you will invite more risks instead of them being observed here in the country.”

    The Bureau of Immigration said it is difficult to ascertain if travelers from South Korea are from of have visited Daegu and North Gyeongsang.

    BI spokeswoman Dana Krizia Sandoval said immigration personnel have to rely on stamps on the passenger’s passport to determine which country they came from and not the specific area of a country. – With Ashzel Hachero