Travel ban vs South Korean province: 26 Koreans under watch
Lorraine L. Ecarma (The Freeman) - February 27, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Local health authorities are now on the lookout for 26 South Korean tourists who arrived in Cebu a night before the Philippine government imposed a ban on travelers from Daegu City in North Gyeongsang province in South Korea following a spike in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases there.

Dr. Terence Anthony Bermejo, chief of the Bureau of Quarantine in Central Visayas, said the 26 tourists are now considered persons under monitoring (PUMs). Bermejo said they will trace their whereabouts by checking on the resorts and hotels.

"We're gonna take a look at the passenger manifest and their whereabouts and we will categorize them as PUMs," he said.

Should they manifest flu-like symptoms, they will be considered persons under investigation (PUI) and will be immediately sent to hospitals.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia met with Bermejo and Department of Health-7 director Dr. Jaime Bernadas yesterday to discuss what actions to take in the light of the recent development.

“We are noting with deep concern the spike of cases infected with the coronavirus in Korea and the increased number of deaths. So, I have asked for a meeting with RD Jaime Bernadas of the DOH this afternoon to discuss the measures we could possibly take,” the governor said.

Travel Ban

The national government yesterday imposed a ban on travelers from the North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea. It has also barred Filipino tourists from visiting any part of the said country as a precautionary measure.

South Korea has recorded more than 1,100 cases of COVID-19, a huge majority of which were in Daegu and North Gyeongsang province. The death toll from the virus has risen to 12, according to South Korean authorities.

"The Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) met today (Feb. 26) and it has approved...a ban on the entry of travelers coming from the North Gyeongsang province of South Korea into Philippine territory effective immediately," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a press briefing yesterday.

Panelo said travelers from other areas of South Korea are allowed to enter the Philippines but Filipino tourists are prohibited from visiting any part of the east Asian country. Permanent residents, those leaving for study and overseas Filipino workers are permitted to travel to South Korea but they should sign a declaration stating that they know and understand the risks involved in their trip.

"With respect to other parts of South Korea, the IATF shall conduct a risk assessment of the situation within 48 hours to analyze whether it is necessary to expand the travel ban," Panelo said.

Philippine authorities are expected to coordinate with the South Korean government to identify which travelers came from North Gyeongsang. Panelo said visitors from other parts of South Korea would be subjected to strict protocols.

"The safety and security of Filipinos here and the outside the Philippines remain our primary concern. Our countrymen's welfare is foremost in our minds as concerned officials discuss updates and recommendations on the management of the coronavirus," he added.

South Korea is the biggest source of tourists for the Philippines, with about 1.45 million South Koreans visiting the country in the first nine months of 2019. In 2018, the number of tourists from South Korea reached 1.6 million or 22.8 percent of the total arrivals that year.

"Well it (tourism) will be affected (by the restriction) but as we always say, we have to secure the safety of those coming here and leaving this country to Korea," Panelo said.

Earlier, the Philippines prohibited travel to and from China and its administrative regions Macau and Hong Kong to contain the spread of the disease, which has so far infected about 80,000 people and claimed more than 2,600 lives. Philstar, FPL (FREEMAN)

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