Latest updates on us immigration due to COVID-19
US IMMIGRATION NOTES - Atty. Marco F.G. Tomakin (The Freeman) - March 22, 2020 - 12:00am

Here are the latest updates around US immigration as it is dramatically affected by COVID-19:

1.) The United States and Canada have mutually agreed to temporarily close the border between the two countries restricting all non-essential travel except trade such as the passage of food, fuel, medicine, and other essential exchanges;

2.) USCIS has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1. It has closed its field offices, application support centers and is rescheduling biometrics, naturalization ceremonies and interview appointments. Emergency services are provided only for limited situations. You can still submit petitions and applications by mail or online;

3.) The US Department of State has advised all US citizens to avoid international travel at this time to avoid the global impact of COVID-19;

4.) The US Embassy in Manila has suspended routine consular services, including all visa services;

5.) Immigration courts have limited hearings to non-detained cases and some are closed;

These developments are rapidly changing depending on how this global pandemic takes shape in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.

* * *

And speaking of COVID-19, I would just like to reiterate the call of our government leaders for everyone to obey the order of social distancing/community quarantine measures. Just this week, I read that the Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire estimated that in three months, COVID-19 cases may reach between 70,000 to 75,000.

For those who may not have fully grasped the importance of this measure, let me illustrate for you using Ms. Vergeire's figures. Take note that the 75,000 cases could go higher because there has not been a very extensive testing done. Once we have more tests, it is expected that there will be a surge of cases since more people have been found to be positive.

Let us just take the DOH figures for purposes of illustration. If there will be 75,000 COVID-19 cases, that means we will need additional 75,000 hospital beds, either as a single private room isolation bed or ICU bed. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and the mode of transmission is mainly through droplet and in this case, surface as well. There are even studies that suggest that it could even be airborne too. All the more that the COVID-19 patient needs to be placed in an isolation room so that he limits the ability to infect others. The sickest patients are placed in ICU beds, which means that they would also need ventilators in order to keep them alive. (To be continued)

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