Travel ban from South Korean province placed on hold

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — Restrictions on travelers from a South Korean province heavily hit by coronavirus will be temporarily put on hold pending a resolution with clear guidelines, officials said Thursday.

Department of Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergerie said the entry ban on those arriving from Daegu and North Gyeongsang in South Korea needs one more signature from a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. Once the resolution is signed, 48 hours has to pass before it is implemented. This clarification comes after Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said the order is effective "immediately."

"Nagbigay ng 48 hours na palugit ang ating mga pamunuan para maipatupad nang maayos. And of course, dissemination of this issuance para makarating sa bawat ahensya," she said.

[Translation: All agencies will be given 48 hours after the signing of the resolution to ensure the information will be disseminated and implemented properly.]

Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval told CNN Philippines that travelers from Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province are still allowed to enter the Philippines as the bureau irons out logistical issues on how to implement the ban.

She said the scenario is different from when the Philippines implemented restrictions on travel to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. This time, the ban is imposed only on selected parts of South Korea.

"With the current procedures, it would be very hard or a challenge for immigration personnel to determine which passengers coming from South Korea are from those areas... Karamihan dumadaan sa mga major international airports nila. So they might be taking land transportation or regional flight, which will not reflect sa kanilang passport," the spokesperson said.

[Translation: Most of them are going through major airports. They might be taking land transportation or regional flights, which will not be reflected in their passports.]

Sandoval said they might need to require travelers from Daegu and North Gyeongsang to provide certificates of travel, but the Bureau of Immigration still needs to coordinate with South Korean authorities.

On the other hand, DOH- Region 7 said the 26 Koreans from Daegu who arrived at Mactan-Cebu International Airport on Tuesday were already traced. Fourteen of the Korean tourists were located at Cebu City, while 12 others in Lapu-Lapu City.

However, DOH- Region 7 director Jaime Bernadas said that the Korean tourists will not undergo anymore the quarantine procedure because they arrive ahead of the announcement of a travel ban in North Gyeonsang. They will just be monitored as to their activities and their whereabouts.

"For now we will just monitor them. We do not have advisory on doing the quarantine on them. We will just monitor them but if they have symptoms then we will place them inside hospitals," said Bernadas.

North Gyeongsang province, where the city of Daegu is located, is where the majority of South Korea's coronavirus cases are located. South Korea, the country with the second most number of cases after China, has recorded 1,766 infections and 13 deaths as of Thursday.

Related: How novel coronavirus spread through the Shincheonji religious group in South Korea 

Meanwhile, the travel ban on Filipino tourists going to South Korea is already in full swing after it was announced on Wednesday. Sandoval said only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and overseas Filipino workers returning to work will be allowed to go to South Korea.