UPON the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the expansion of the temporary travel ban over the 2019-nCoV ARD or the Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease to include travelers coming from any part of China and its Special Administrative Regions to help combat the spread of the disease.
Go confirmed the President’s decision in a statement and in various radio interviews on Sunday morning.
“During my discussion with President Rodrigo Duterte last Saturday night on the government’s efforts to address the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease situation, I recommended to the President to implement a temporary travel ban on travelers coming from any part of China and its Special Administrative Regions, on top of the existing temporary travel ban imposed on those coming from Hubei province and other affected areas,” Go said.
The move is based on and in line with the recommendations of DOH and members of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Go confirmed that the President agreed to adopt the proposal, saying “(t)aking into consideration the concerns raised by key government officials and health experts, the President made an informed decision and has agreed to adopt this recommendation and implement it immediately as an additional precautionary measure to protect Filipinos and everyone in the Philippines.”
He added that the Office of the President (OP) will release further details to explain to the public the scope of the order.
Go also clarified that the order covers all travelers from China to the Philippines, regardless of nationality.
“I wish to emphasize that we are not singling out Chinese nationals. This order covers all travelers from China to the Philippines, regardless of nationality,” Go said.
A statement released by Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo states that the temporary travel ban will apply to all travelers coming directly from China and its Special Administrative Regions.
The ban also applies to travelers who, within fourteen days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, have been to China and its Special Administrative Regions.
While Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visas issued by the Philippine government are not covered by the ban, they will be subjected to a fourteen-day quarantine period immediately upon arrival in the country. A repatriation and quarantine facility will be established for Filipinos coming from affected areas.
Filipinos will also be temporarily banned from traveling to China and its Special Administrative Regions.
The statement also mentions that “the President will be presiding oner the next meeting of the Task Force on Monday and to be attended by other concerned agencies” while all government agencies are also directed “to adopt, coordinate and implement the said guidelines, and such other guidelines which the Task Force may subsequently issue on the matter.”
The military and other law enforcement agencies were also instructed “to give the necessary assistance to ensure the implementation of this directive to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone.
The IATF was given the authority, if necessary, to ban the entry of travelers from other areas with confirmed widespread 2019-nCOV ARD.
Meanwhile, Go expressed his empathy to China, adding that the government is committed to helping all countries affected by the outbreak.
“We empathize with China given what they are going through but we are doing this to protect the country and its people. The Philippine government is committed to help China and other affected countries address this worldwide health concern,” he said.
As for the 40 Filipinos in Wuhan, China who have volunteered to return home, Go said that the government is ready to deploy aircraft to bring them back home.
“Handa ang pamahalaan na mag deploy ng aircrafts for the airlift,” he said.
“Sa mga naiwan dun, handa naman tumulong ang gobyerno. Nandiyan ang Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) at ang ating foreign affairs (department). Ready po silang tumulong sa mga naiwan po dun,” he added.
Meanwhile, asked on the objectives of the upcoming public hearing of the Senate Committee on Health on Tuesday regarding the virus, Go said that he aims to discuss the next steps to deter the spread of the disease in the country.
“Sa hearing natin this Tuesday, alamin natin kung ano ano ang mga hakbang ngayon at ano ang kailangan pang gawin nating lahat upang maiwasan ang pagkalat ng Novel Coronavirus,” he said, adding that all concerned agencies will be present in the meeting, including representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and health experts from various fields.
Go also stressed that, as Chair of the Committee on Health, the welfare and interest of the Filipino people remain his top priority.
“Lahat ng desisyon ng gobyerno, hindi basta-basta. Pinag-aaralan po lahat ‘yan. Binabalanse lahat. Kailangan pong pag-aralan ‘yan bago ginagawa... Rest assured, inuuna ang interes ng bawat Pilipino,” he added.
As for those who criticize the government’s efforts to combat the virus, Go urged them to help provide solutions instead.