Samal Island bars entry of Chinese, other foreign tourists from coronavirus-hit countries

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 30) — The local government of Samal Island has temporarily barred the entry of tourists from mainland China and other countries with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

This comes as the Health Department confirmed the first case of the 2019-nCoV in the Philippines.

The city order, signed by Mayor Al David Uy on Wednesday, stated that the following were barred, due to the virus outbreak:

1. Group tours and island-hopping trips composed of foreign nationals or tourists from countries affected by 2019-nCoV.

2. Entry of individuals coming form countries affected by 2019-nCoV

3. All persons suspected of carrying the NCoV or those who had previously been quarantined.

Uy also ordered city police and coast guard officers to patrol and inspect vehicles entering the city to ensure the ban is being followed.

The latest data showed more than 8,000 confirmed 2019-nCoV cases from 20 other countries namely — mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, the United States and Vietnam. A total of 170 persons have died, all coming form mainland China.

Uy said they have been taking measures to ensure the safety of the people living on the island even if it will cost their tourism sector.

“We are much aware that Samal is a tourist spot, and we have a good tourism industry here. It will be affected but it is a bullet we are willing to take for the sake of ensuring that the virus will not enter our city,” he said.

Over 150 resorts in the city will be possibly affected by the temporary shutdown.

Uy said that they are also planning to make use of the Quick Response Fund of the City for the purchase of protective gears for frontline health professionals and thermal scanner.

“We will have a meeting to determine what we should do. For now, we are planning to purchase thermal scanners, protective gears for frontline health professionals and probably build a health facility in case that there will be a confirmed case of coronavirus in our city,” he said.

“Hopefully this will not take long, especially that summer is fast approaching,” he added.

In an earlier Facebook post, Samal officials said only Asian nationals were prohibited from visiting the city.

"As a proactive measure to protect our people from exposure to the much dreaded coronavirus, the Local Government Unit of the Island Garden City of Samal is temporarily suspending entry of group tour travels of Mainland Chinese tourist and other Asian nationals to our city," it said in a post on Wednesday.

The national government, however, is against banning Chinese nationals from entering the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte maintained on Wednesday that banning travel between the country and China will not be easy, despite the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak that originated in the East Asian nation.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are looking at the ban as an option, but he raised that China might question why we are not imposing the same restriction on other countries.

"If we do this, then the concerned country — China in this case ​—​​​​​​ might question why we're not doing the same for other countries that have reported confirmed cases of novel coronavirus," said Duque during a question hour at the House of Representatives.

Related: Duterte not keen on banning travel to China amid coronavirus scare

Stringer Pearl A. Gajunera contributed to this report.