Philippines limits new travel restrictions to Italy, Iran

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Saturday, March 14, modified a blanket travel ban earlier imposed on countries with confirmed localized transmissions of the novel coronavirusrestricting it to travelers coming from Iran and Italy.

This backtracks from President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier announcement that the Philippines would be banning travelers coming from all countries with confirmed localized transmissions of the novel coronavirus.

Duterte's statement caused confusion among countries and prompted some Philippine embassies to issue advisories on the sweeping restriction.  

In a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Friday night, March 13, and shared with media on Saturday, the new travel restrictions cover only Iran and Italy.

This will be in addition to the existing travel ban for Filipino tourists and non-Filipinos coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, as well as North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, in South Korea. 

Medical certificates

Unlike earlier travel bans imposed by the Philippines, the new restrictions do not prohibit the entry of travelers coming from Iran or Italy.

Instead, travelers coming from these countries will be required to present medical certificates which certify they have tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  

Medical certificates will need to be issued by “competent medical authorities” within 48 hours before their departure. 

Exempted from the restrictions are Filipino citizens, permanent resident visa holders, and holders of diplomat visas issued by the Philippines. Foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens will also be allowed to enter.  

Why Iran and Italy only? Iran and Italy are among the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus disease outside China. 

The two countries account for the second and third largest number of cases in the world.  

As of Saturday in Italy, over 17,000 people have been infected with the disease while the death toll surpassed 1,200 people. Meanwhile, Iran recorded over 11,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and over 500 deaths.  

Thermal screening: Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez clarified to reporters on Saturday that "all travelers, regardless of origin will be questioned if thermal screening process is triggered."

He advised all foreigners coming into the Philippines through Metro Manila to land in airports outside the capital region if their final destination is outside the region.

Duterte earlier declared domestic land, air, and sea travel will be prohibited as Metro Manila is place on lockdown or “community quarantine” from Sunday, March 15 to April 14. 

As of Saturday, the Philippines has recorded 64 confirmed coronavirus cases. The confirmed cases included 6 deaths.  – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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