PH bans travel of Filipino tourists to South Korea due to coronavirus outbreak

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 26) — The Philippines imposed a travel ban on Filipino tourists going to South Korea due to a spike in coronavirus cases, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Wednesday.

When asked if Filipino tourists are not allowed to travel to any part of South Korea, he answered, "Yes, for their own safety."South Korea is a popular destination for Filipino travelers, espcially fans of Korean drama and Kpop.

Panelo said there are exceptions to the travel ban to South Korea, which was decided during the meeting of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. South Korea has the second most number of confirmed cases after China, with 1,146 coronavirus cases.

"Any travel to South Korea will be temporarily suspended," the task force said in a statement. "Only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and (overseas Filipino workers) returing to work will be allowed provided that they sign a written declaraton acknowledging the risks involved which will be complemented with a health advisory pamphlet."

"The IATF has authorized Filipinos to travel to South Korea, provided that they are permanent residents thereof, leaving for study, or are overseas Filipino workers therein. They are to execute and sign a declaration, signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved, prior to their travel," he said in a media briefing.

Panelo said those coming from North Gyeongsang Province or Gyeongbuk, including Daegu and Cheongdo County, are not allowed to enter the Philippines.

However, the IATF-EID noted that Filipinos and their foreign spouses or children, and holders of permanent resident and diplomatic visas will be allowed entry subject to existing screening and quarantine protocols.

The inter-agency task force will assess the situation within 48 hours if it's necessary for the  government to expand the entry ban to other parts of South Korea, he added. The highest number of tourist in the Philippines in 2018 were South Koreans.

"Kung medyo nagkaroon ng infection, isasama na rin sila," he said.

[Translation: Areas which will have infection will be included (in the ban).]

On the other hand, the Cebu Task Force is also on the hunt on the 26 Korean nationals who arrived Tuesday evening from Daegu City, where the outbreak in the country began.

Bureau of Quarantine Region 7 chief Terrence Anthony Bermejo said the Korean passengers will be traced using the health declaration card they submitted upon arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. The health cards indicate the places they will be going and the place they will be staying in Cebu.

Once found, they will be asked to be confined in their hotel rooms and be subjected to mandatory 14-day quarantine.

There are now 1,146 confirmed coronavirus cases and 12 deaths in South Korea from 51 infections last week. The outbreak began in the southern city of Daegu and was centered around the Shincheonji religious group.

The Philippines also has an existing travel ban on China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

This is a developing story.