Philippines suspends visa issuance as worldwide COVID-19 cases soar – Locsin

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19)— The Philippines will temporarily stop issuing visas to all foreigners and cancel existing ones amid the global threat of the coronavirus disease, the country's top diplomat said Thursday.

"Starting today, all our Embassies and Consulates will temporarily suspend visa issuance to all foreign nationals as well as the visa-free privileges of all foreign nationals," Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. tweeted.

"Moreover, all previously issued Philippine visas to foreign nationals are deemed cancelled," he added. "Visas already issued to foreign spouses and children of Filipino nationals remain valid."

Prior to that tweet, Locsin said the government may "consider"suspending visa issuance at least for the month-long quarantine period enforced in Luzon, where the country's main airport is located. He said the agency will consult the Tourism Department about the possible move.

He also earlier said the DFA was looking into halting all visa-free privileges except for neighboring nations in Southeast Asia. His new tweet, however, shows visa-free privilege for visitors from the rest of the 10-member the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will also be temporarily stopped.

Currently, over a hundred countries— including African, European, and South American nations— enjoy the visa-free policy in the Philippines.

The government also earlier imposed travel restrictions on foreign visitors coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea's North Gyeongsang province due to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. These include the Immigration Bureau's temporary suspension of the visa upon arrival scheme for Chinese nationals.

The rapid spike in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines— which topped 200 as of Thursday— prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Luzon under "enhanced" community quarantine.

The directive restricts movement of people, and bans Luzon-wide transportation services including land, air, and sea travel until April 13.

Globally, the infectious disease has affected more than 218,000 people in 158 different countries including China, where the mysterious virus first spread. The death toll from COVID-19 has also reached over 8,800 worldwide— with 17 fatalities recorded in the Philippines.