Returning OFWs to China not covered by nCoV travel ban

MANILA — Filipinos with work permits in China and its special administrative regions are not covered in the travel ban imposed by Malacañang in response to the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, the Philippine Embassy in Beijing said Sunday.

“Overseas Filipino workers are not prohibited from returning to China if they have a visa and work permit there,” Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

This comes as President Rodrigo Duterte issued a directive in an attempt to contain the fast-spreading novel coronavirus.

The directive announces the “temporary ban on Filipinos from travel to China and its Special Administrative Regions,” which according to Sta. Romana only covers “Filipino tourists”.

The said order also contains the travel ban on “the entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipinos directly coming from China and its special administrative regions”.

Before the Philippine government restricted the entry of visitors coming from China, the 2019-nCoV’s epicenter, Beijing had earlier banned all outbound tour groups in a bid to contain the outbreak.

Although the tourism industry is projected to bear the brunt of the slump in the number of big-spending Chinese tourists, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said the safety of Filipino citizens and travelers alike remains a top priority as it assured the implementation of the chief executive’s order.

“While the DOT is mandated to encourage, promote, and develop tourism as a major socio-economic activity, at this time our first priority is ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of all,” Tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.

Puyat urged the public to “stay informed and abide by the suggested guidelines issued by our health department to minimize risk and help stem the spread of the coronavirus.”

“For your safety, we ask for your full cooperation and understanding at this time,” she added.  Joyce Ann Rocamora/PNA –