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Japan travel ban still not discussed, DOT chief says

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Japan travel ban still not discussed, DOT chief says
This photo taken on February 23, 2020 shows an employee of a fortune-telling shop wearing a face mask as he waits for customers in the Chinatown district in Yokohama.
AFP / Philip Fong

MANILA, Philippines — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Friday said the travel restriction on Japan is still not yet tackled by the government.

“We have not discussed at all [regarding] Japan,” she said in a text message to PhilStar.com, while referring to Japan travel ban.

Health Secretary Francis Duque last Thursday said Japan may be included in the country’s travel ban amid the rising number cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in that east Asian country.

Duque, however, said the potential travel restriction still depends if it would fit the criteria of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases for each country to be included in a temporary travel ban.

“Kung pasok, posible… Magde-decision ang task force,” Duque was quoted in an interview with dzMM.

(If it fits [the critera], it's possible...The task force will decide.)

In the radio report, Duque said among the considerations include the “situation of local transmission of COVID-19 in the country” or if it has a “high volume of travelers.”

At least 210 people have been infected by COVID-19 in Japan with five deaths linked to it, according to Agence France-Presse report.

Around 700 people were infected with the virus from among the 3,700 passengers and crew on a cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan after one of its former passengers tested positive.

On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged schools across the country to close for around a month as part of precautionary measures. He said nurseries and after-school clubs are exempt from this order.

Theme parks such as Disneyland and Disneysea in Tokyo and Universal Studios Japan that attract around 30 million visitors yearly, also announced that they would close amid COVID-19 fears.

The closure would run from Saturday until March 15 “to limit the virus spread.”

The highly anticipated Tokyo Olympics 2020 also faces threat of closure amid the virus outbreak. However, the International Olympic Committee is "fully committed" to holding the international sports event.

South Korea travel ban expansion

Meanwhile, early this week, the Malacañang announced that the government would impose a temporary travel ban on North Gyeongsang province in South Korea.

Filipinos are also barred from traveling to South Korea.

When asked about potential expansion of travel ban to the entire South Korea, Puyat just responded: “I am confident [with] the protocols that the government of South Korea is undertaking.”

South Koreans are the top tourists of the country with almost 2 million arrivals recorded in 2019. They have been holding the top spot since 2010.

Earlier, the government also imposed a temporary travel ban on China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan due to increase of coronavirus cases.

The government last month lifted the travel ban on Taiwan but the same restriction applies to mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

China is the second top tourist source market of the country with 1.74 million visitors or a 38.58% increase in 2019.

Howard Lance Uyking, DOT’s assistant secretary for Branding and Marketing Communications, said the 2020 tourist arrivals target was already affected by the recent temporary travel ban but they plan to mitigate the setbacks through domestic tourism.

The government targets 9.2 million foreign visitors for 2020.

BERNADETTE ROMULO-PUYAT CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM JAPAN TRAVEL BAN NOVEL CORONAVIRUS TOURISM
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