(FEBRUARY 21, 2020) – An inter-agency task force on infectious disease has started looking into the possibility of imposing new travel restrictions on countries hit by the fast-spreading coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019), the health department said on Friday.
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the travel ban might be imposed on countries where there were cases of local transmission, as some sectors have questioned the lack of travel protocols on countries with confirmed cases of the virus.
There are about 25 countries around the world where confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported.
“For these other countries with local transmission, pinag-aaralan na po lahat ‘yan sa ngayon,” Vergeire told reporters in a regular briefing.
“Mayroon po tayong ginagamit na template or matrix kung saan tinitingnan natin ang iba’t ibang factors or criteria for us to determine as much as possible scientifically kung bakit tayo nagre-restrict.”
The Philippines has only imposed a travel ban on China and its special administrative regions where over 2,100 infected people had died.
The virus has infected more than 75,000 people in China alone.
“Hindi natin sinasabi na ngayon ay ito na lang talaga ang mga bansa na ito ang binibigyan natin ng restrictions and in the future hindi na,” Vergeire said. “As I’ve said, it is evolving.”
The government earlier extended the travel ban to Taiwan, but it was later lifted following the concerns raised by some groups.
The immigration bureau also partially removed the ban on Hong Kong and Macau to allow Filipino workers to return to their jobs.
The World Health Organization did not recommend travel restrictions, saying it is ineffective in fighting the virus.
The organization instead promoted proper hygiene and sanitation to contain the virus as scientists scramble to create a vaccine against the disease. (Karen Macalalad/MM)
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