NAIA still open to int'l flights amid Metro Manila quarantine, official says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 3) — International flights to and from Metro Manila will still be allowed, even though the government placed the region under a so called “community quarantine” due to rising cases of coronavirus, a Cabinet official clarified Friday.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said returning overseas Filipinos will be subject to "strict quarantine guidelines" while foreign nationals who are now in Metro Manila are free to fly back to their countries.

Nograles, however, stressed that there will be "very strict and stringent travel restrictions" for those coming from countries with local transmissions of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19. The Philippines is expanding its travel ban to include these coronavirus-hit countries, but guidelines have yet to be finalized.

The Philippines previously banned foreign travelers from China, Hong Kong, Macau and the South Korean province of North Gyeongsang.

Nograles explained that since Metro Manila is under community-wide quarantine, travelers will have to remain in the region while domestic travel restrictions are in place.

"Anyone flying in from abroad via NAIA will remain in Metro Manila until the domestic travel ban is lifted," Nograles said. He added that travelers may instead book flights via other international airports to avoid the Metro Manila quarantine.

On Thursday night, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that all land, local air travel and local sea travel to and from Metro Manila are suspended from midnight of March 15 until April 14, to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Duterte said the policy will be evaluated weekly to see if there is a need to lift the domestic travel ban.

The Philippines now has a total of 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including five deaths. Most of the patients are confined in hospitals in Metro Manila.

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 exhibit virus symptoms.