BI reimplements ban on travelers from South Korean province

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28) — The Bureau of Immigration is now implementing the ban on travelers from coronavirus-hit North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the travel ban covers those coming from the province, where of Daegu City and Cheongo County are both located, on the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases,

The South Korean government pledged to issue a certification to distinguish if a passenger is coming from areas covered by the ban, BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said.

Immigration officers were also instructed to carefully screen arriving passengers from South Korea and to require them to show their Resident Registration Certificate and their National ID.

Exempted from the travel ban are arriving Filipinos with their foreign spouse and children, permanent residents in the country, and members of the diplomatic corps.

“What’s different in this ban is that transiting passengers are allowed, as recommended by the task force, as long as they do not pass through North Gyeongsang Province, Daegu, and Cheongdo,” said Medina.

Outbound Filipinos are also temporarily not allowed to travel to the entire South Korea. Exempted are South Korean permanent resident visa holders, overseas Filipino workers, and student visa holders.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier questioned the Immigration Bureau's decision to delay the implementation of the travel ban pending a signed order.

Duque said with the threat from the coronavirus outbreak, time is of the essence and the travel restriction should have been implemented immediately to prevent the spread of the deadly virus in the country.

The travel ban was announced by Duque and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday but it was not implemented until Friday.

"Some groups are becoming too technical. They don't want to move unless there's a signed resolution, and yet they're a part of the decision-making process. They were there so they were part of the discussion... The implementation should have already been done so as not to cause a delay in the implementation of the selective travel ban. Why do we have to wait?" the health chief told CNN Philippines.

Morente clarified the BI did not deliberately delay the enforcement of the ban.

"We had to thresh out implementation issues, as this travel ban is different compared to the previous ones issued," said Morente. "We are one with the government in ensuring that this health scare does not spread in the country, by implementing policies properly and efficiently."

North Gyeongsang province is where majority of South Korea's coronavirus cases are located. Next to China, South Korea has the second most number of coronavirus cases, with at least 2,337 cases and 13 deaths as of Friday.

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