THE Philippine government has advised Filipinos to delay travel plans to South Korea amid the rising number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in the East Asian country.
As of Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, South Korea’s confirmed Covid-19 cases reached 833, with seven deaths, making it the country with the third-highest national total behind China’s 77,150 and Japan’s 838.
The large jump in new virus cases came a day after South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the outbreak has reached a “crucial watershed,” and that the next few days will be critical.
“We shouldn’t be bound by regulations and hesitate to take unprecedented, powerful measures,” he said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, is coordinating with the Filipino community in South Korea to monitor if there were Filipinos infected with the novel coronavirus.
The DFA has asked Filipinos there to contact the hotline number of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul at (+82) 10-9263-8119 in cases of emergency.
Those experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 “should immediately contact the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention at 1339,” added the DFA statement.
The agency also advised all Filipinos in South Korea to monitor and comply with the advisories from South Korean health authorities and cooperate with efforts to quell the further spread of the Covid-19.
The South Korean government has increased its anti-virus alert level by one notch to “Red,” the highest level, in response to the spread of the disease.
This allowed for the temporary closure of schools and reduced operation of public transportation and flights to and from South Korea.
In the Philippines, the tourism industry may again suffer a huge blow with reduced flights to and from South Korea, the country’s top tourism market.
During a press briefing in Malacañang on Monday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases had not yet decided to impose a travel ban on South Korea, but that it would discuss the issue amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases there. “For now, no decision. It will be discussed in the Task Force. We’ll assess the situation. And based on our existing protocols and recommendations from the WHO, that will be the basis for making a decision if ever.”
South Korea accounted for 1,989,322 or 24 percent of foreign tourists to the Philippines in 2019.
In Cebu more than 1.3 million Koreans visited the island-province either for business, leisure or study in 2018.
South Koreans made up 36.99 percent of Cebu’s tourism market that year.
Reduced flights to and from Korea would mean a disruption in Central Visayas’ tourism sector as Koreans have remained its number one market since 2010.
“Whenever, there’s a travel ban it will always have a domino effect. It’s just unfortunate because South Korea is our number one market,” Alice Queblatin, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operators, told SunStar Cebu while admitting that the health of Filipino citizens comes first.
“We always take our cue from the Department of Health.” Queblatin added.
The Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC), for its part, said it continued to enforce precautionary measures in member-establishments to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.
HRRAC president Carlo Suarez said for their safety, the tourists, themselves, were cooperative with the hotel staff and HRRAC members were active in reporting to heath authorities persons showing flu-like symptoms.
Aside from Korea, the other top five tourism markets of the Philippines in 2019 were China (1.74 million), USA (1.06 million), Japan (682,788) and Taiwan (327,273).
Significant jumps in Covid-19 cases outside China have raised concern of the outbreak getting out of control, the Associated Press reported.
In China, 409 new cases were reported Monday, raising the mainland’s total to 77,150 after a zigzag pattern of increases in recent days.
The 150 new deaths from the Covid-19 illness raised China’s total to 2,592 and showed a spike after hovering around 100 for four days. All but one death were in Hubei province, where the outbreak emerged in December.
Meanwhile, most of Japan’s cases were from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, where nearly one-fifth of its 3,711 passengers and crew became infected.
In the Philippines, three confirmed cases of Covid-19 with one death were reported earlier.
Local government units and health authorities in Cebu remain on guard against threats of the virus.
In Mandaue City, 12 persons under monitoring (PUMs) completed their 14-day home quarantine, while five are still being monitored.
The PUMs were overseas Filipino workers who had arrived via the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
Meanwhile, Mandaue City Health Office (MCHO) chief Rose Marie Tirado said the mandatory quarantine imposed by health authorities on those who had just arrived from China, Hong Kong and Macau have led others to take advantage of the situation.
A resident of Mandaue City reportedly asked the DOH for a certificate of completion of the 14-day quarantine.
However, a check on MCHO records showed that the person was not among those ordered to go on home quarantine.
Tirado said they later learned that the person needed the health certificate to excuse himself from his 14-day absence from work. (KFD, SUNSTAR PHILIPPINES, AP )
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