PH suspends visa issuance for travelers from Hubei over coronavirus scare

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from Hubei province, China, due to the novel coronavirus (nCoV) scare.

"Pursuant to the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) on #2019nCoV resolution, DFA has temporarily suspended the issuance of Philippine visas to travelers from Hubei Province, China, effectively immediately," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Brigido Dulay tweeted on Tuesday night, January 28.

Pursuant to the IATF on #2019nCoV resolution, DFA has temporarily suspended the issuance of Philippine visas to travelers from Hubei Province, China, effectively immediately. pic.twitter.com/eD3d2esW5E — Dodo Dulay (@dododulay) January 28, 2020

The latest directive widens the scope of restrictions taken by the Philippine government to manage the novel coronavirus situation in the country where there has been no confirmed case, as of posting.

The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) earlier suspended direct flights from Wuhan City, China, the epicenter of the virus. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced on Tuesday, January 28, the temporary suspension of the visa upon arrival (VUA) mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen.

While the BI takes care of VUA issuances in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs takes care of the issuance of Philippine visas in foreign countries. The BI had also earlier clarified that there is no policy to bar Chinese nationals in general, so those who have other valid visas can still enter the Philippines.

The latest in the Philippines: Health authorities have not yet recorded any confirmed case of the coronavirus in the country.

But as of January 28, the health department announced that it was monitoring 24 people with symptoms of respiratory illness, and who all have a history of travel to Wuhan.

Other measures taken: The DFA said it was ready to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan City and the rest of Hubei province who want to come home, though this would be subject to China’s rules on disease containment, immigration clearance, and quarantine process.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, the DFA said Filipino repatriates will undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine per guidelines of the Department of Health.

DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez said about 50 Filipinos expressed the desire to come home as of Wednesday, January 29, but that details were still being "coordinated and considered."

The new virus has so far killed 132 and infected nearly 6,000 as of Wednesday, January 28. – 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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