PH weighs possible travel bans to Japan, Italy, Iran over coronavirus scare

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 28)— The Philippine government is studying the possibility of imposing travel bans to three more countries affected by the coronavirus outbreak, according to an official.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the country’s Task Force is constantly assessing the situations in Japan, Italy, and Iran— amid the rapid spike in coronavirus cases there.

Ayoko pangunahan, but obviously the Task Force is looking at these two countries (Japan and Italy) as well,” Nograles told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Friday.

[Translation: I don’t want to preempt anything, but obviously the Task Force is looking at these two countries as well.]

“Obviously Iran is something that we're taking a look at also. Hindi natin pwedeng balewalain ang Iran because we still have Filipinos in Iran, more than a thousand na mga kababayan natin ang naninirahan po diyan sa Iran. So tinitingnan din po namin iyan,” he added.

[Translation: Obviously Iran is something that we’re taking a look at also. We cannot brush Iran off because we still have Filipinos in Iran, we have more than a thousand countrymen living there. So we’re taking a look at it too.]

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the decision for a selective or absolute travel ban is in the hands of the task force.

He said the possible directive will be based on the following criteria: reported local transmission and volume of travelers to the particular country, fragility and threat of the environment, as well as travel restrictions to and from China.

Cases soaring

There are now 655 coronavirus cases, including 17 deaths in Italy— the most number recorded in a European country.

Japan so far has more than 900 confirmed cases, over 700 of them linked to the cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

Iran, on the other hand, has reported 26 coronavirus-linked deaths— the most number of deaths outside of Hubei province in China, where the respiratory disease first broke out. There are also 245 confirmed cases in the Middle East nation.

The Philippines earlier imposed a travel ban for Filipino tourists heading to South Korea, the nation with the second most number of confirmed cases after China. Only permanent residents of South Korea, Filipinos leaving for study, and overseas Filipino workers returning to work will be allowed to go back to the Asian country.

Meanwhile, the selective travel ban to North Gyeongsang Province, including the city of Daegu, has been put on hold pending a signed resolution wherein clear guidelines are laid out.

READ: Duque slams Immigration call to delay South Korea travel ban