S. Korea travel ban expanded

February 28, 2020
Protective gear
Workers wearing protective gear disinfect ticket gates as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a subway station in Seoul on February 28, 2020. K-pop megastars BTS on February 28 cancelled four concerts they were due to hold in Seoul in April, their agency said, as the coronavirus outbreak spreads in South Korea. The country has so far confirmed more than 2,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, by far the largest national total outside China, the origin of the disease. - - AFP / YONHAP / - /

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) yesterday announced that they are implementing an expanded travel ban to include the North Gyeongsang Province, Daegu and Cheongdo in South Korea amidst the Covid-2019 outbreak.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the expansion was recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) to include banning of inbound and outbound travel from South Korean region.

Morente, however, clarified that “it is not a total ban for travelers from South Korea, but for travelers coming from North Gyeongsang Province, Daeugu, and Cheongdo only.”  The BI official said foreigners coming from South Korea will be screened to see if they are coming from those areas.

According to BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, the Korean government pledged to issue a certification to distinguish if a passenger is coming from the areas of concern.  Meanwhile, IOs have been instructed to carefully scrutinize arriving passengers from South Korea and require the Resident Registration Certificate (RRC) and their National ID to be able to screen passengers from the restricted areas.

“While it is a challenge to identify which passengers from South Korea actually came from said areas, the Korean government is doing measures to ensure that the virus stops spreading to nearby regions,” said Medina.

The Korean government earlier pledged to take maximum quarantine steps in Daegu and its surrounding province to contain the virus.

“We have also sought the assistance of airlines, requiring them to collect and disclose to immigration authorities the full itineraries of passengers with a travel history to Korea within the last 14 days,” said Medina. \

“Similar to earlier bans, airlines have been advised not to board said passengers on flights to the Philippines,” he added.

Exempted from the travel ban are arriving Filipinos, their foreign spouse and children, Philippine permanent resident visa holders, and members of the diplomatic corps. 

“What’s different in this ban is that transiting passengers are allowed, as recommended by the task force, as long as they do not pass through North Gyeongsang Province, Daegu, and Cheongdo,” said Medina. 

“This is a result of the relatively lower confirmed cases of the Covid-19 in Korea,” he added.

Medina likewise said that outbound Filipinos are temporarily not allowed to travel to the entire South Korea.  Only Korean permanent resident visa holders, overseas Filipino workers, and student visa holders are allowed to return to South Korea.

Foreigners from South Korea remain the country’s top foreign arrivals.  In 2019, more than 2.1 million Koreans entered the Philippines.

Morente clarified that they did not deliberately delay the implementation of the travel ban.  “We had to thresh out implementation issues, as this travel ban is different compared to the previous ones issued,” said Morente. 

“We are one with the government in ensuring that this health scare does not spread in the country, by implementing policies properly and efficiently,” he added.