Philippines to reject transit passengers from China, Hong Kong too

MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Immigration Spokesperson Dana Sandoval said on Monday, February 3, that travelers coming from transit points in Hong Kong are also covered by travel restrictions put in place to address the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Sandoval made the statement in a Palace briefing, when told of queries from travelers who had plans to come to the Philippines but had layovers in major transit hubs such as the Hong Kong International Airport.

"Transiting passengers will not be allowed to enter the Philippines," Sandoval said.

What restrictions? The Philippine government on Sunday, February 2, implemented a ban against non-Filipinos coming to the country directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau in an effort to quell the spread of the virus.

Aside from this, the government said foreigners coming to the Philippines who have been to China or its administrative regions within the last two weeks will also be denied entry.

Only Filipino citizens and permanent resident visa holders are exempted from the ban.

"We implement the directive to the letter. What we are looking at is not the nationality, but where they came from," Sandoval said.

What's the latest in the Philippines? In addition to the travel restrictions, the Philippines also temporarily stopped issuing visas to travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

Immigration officials likewise suspended the visa upon arrival mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen.

The Philippines joined a growing list of countries that have put in place temporary but sweeping restrictions on travelers coming from China within the last two weeks.

Bans were imposed even if the World Health Organization warned that closing borders was likely ineffective in halting transmission of the virus. (READ: China coronavirus outbreak: How governments have reacted)

So far, the Department of Health has confirmed two cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.

These include the first death outside China – a 44-year-old Chinese man who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan. The man was the country's second confirmed case of 2019-nCoV, and a companion of the first patient, a 38-year-old Chinese woman.

As of Monday, the virus has killed 362 people and infected over 17,000 people worldwide. – Rappler.com

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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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