Philippines expands travel ban to all countries with local COVID-19 transmission

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — The Philippines has expanded the travel ban it imposes due to the COVID-19 pandemic to all countries which have localized transmission of the viral disease.

All those who come from countries with local transmissions of the virus will not be allowed entry into the Philippines, except Filipino citizens, their foreign spouse and children, permanent residents and holders of diplomatic visas.

“But ang Pilipino pati ‘yung pamilya niya, because they are Filipinos and this is their country, they are very much welcome to come back lalo na sa panahong ito if they want a more secure, comfortable place,” President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday as he announced the new travel restriction.

[Translation: Filipinos and their families, because they are Filipinos and this is their country, they are very much welcome to come back especially in this time if they want a more secure, comfortable place.]

Upon signing a declaration that they are aware of the risks involved, Filipino workers will also be allowed to go back to China, except Hubei province where Wuhan — the epicenter of COVID-19 — is located.

Prior to the expansion of the ban, the Philippines had only barred foreign travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau and the South Korean province of North Gyeongsang.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have imposed their own ban on travelers coming from the Philippines.

According to the World Health Organization, 65 countries, including the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and the US, have local transmissions of the viral disease.

Five people have died in the Philippines because of the disease. Two have recovered, while 48 are admitted at various hospitals in the country.

Globally, the virus has killed more than 4,700 and infected over 127,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University global tracking of cases.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, which is related to the virus that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but is not as deadly, with the fatality rate standing at around three percent.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of patients only experience “mild illness” and eventually recover. It added that some 14 percent experience severe illness while five percent were critically ill.

The disease is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze.

To prevent infection, authorities are urging people to practice regular hand washing, cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who show respiratory symptoms.

Commonly reported COVID-19 symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Those with severe and critical symptoms should call the Health Department at (02) 8-651-7800 local 1149-1150.

The WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic, but stressed that this should not cause alarm as it can still be controlled since 90 percent of infections are being reported in only four countries, while outbreaks in China and South Korea are slowing down.