Palace confirms travel ban on South Korea's North Gyeongsang province

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Palace confirms travel ban on South Korea's North Gyeongsang province
A South Korean health official sprays disinfectant in front of a building of Korean Air in Incheon on February 25, 2020. The novel coronavirus outbreak in South Korea is "very grave", President Moon Jae-in said on February 25 as he visited its epicentre and the country's total number of cases approached 1,000.
AFP / Yonhap

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2 4:08 p.m.) — Just a day after it was disclosed that a travel ban on South Korea was being considered, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed that a ban would be imposed on travelers coming from the North Gyeongsang province of South Korea amid a worldwide scare due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

As of this writing, there are 1,146 confirmed cases of the new virus in South Korea, resulting in 11 deaths. South Korea President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday tagged the situation in the country as "very grave" as the overall number continues to rise. 

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Monday said that none of the confirmed cases were Filipinos. 

"Doon lang 'yung concentration ng virus," Panelo said at a televised press briefing. 

Filipino tourists banned from travelling to South Korea

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also said that Filipinos would also be banned from travelling to all parts of South Korea. 

Duque, however, clarified that only permanent residents, students, and OFWs living and working in South Korea would be permitted to return to the country, on the condition that they submitted a written affidavit acknowledging the possible risks.

At the same briefing, Nograles disclosed that the inter-agency task force would be discussing on Thursday the possible repatriation of Filipinos in Macau.

The DOH chief also confirmed that the 445 repatriates from the Diamond Princess cruise ship had safely returned and were already under quarantine at the New Clark City Athletes' Village. 

He said that only Filipinos who tested negative for COVID-19 were allowed to be repatriated. All of these, Duque said, were made to go through five separate rounds of testing for symptoms linked to the virus.  

"There is still a possibility that our nationals may test positive upon their return. We have equipped hospitals with all necessary resources," Duque said. 
"So we are ready just in case that eventuality happens."

This marks the latest ban caused by the COVID-19 scare after President Rodrigo Duterte extended his earlier travel ban to include all of mainland China along with special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. 

The initial travel ban only included the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, was located

Duterte initially opposed the idea of a ban on China, saying this could adversely damage diplomatic relations. 

It was also later revealed that this ban had also controversially included Taiwan, although this was later on lifted after it spawned outrage from OFWs and the Taiwanese government. 

Imposing a travel ban on South Korea is also seen to significantly damage the local tourism industry, as South Korea had been documented to be the country's largest source of tourists. 

In separate statements on Wednesday morning, lawmakers from both chambers called for the government to craft a resilience plan to offset the effects of the virus on the economy and on the tourism industry. 

Government data shows that as of the end of 2019, some 62,398 Filipino nationals were living and working in South Korea. — with reports from Agence France-Presse

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