BI admits finding difficulty in screening foreigners from South Korea amid COVID-19 threat
The Bureau of Immigration ( BI) admitted on Monday there has been difficulty in screening foreigners coming from South Korea amid the government's partial travel ban in the country due to the threat of the coronavirus disease.
"Actually, that's our difficulty in implementing the (travel ban) for those arriving (from South Korea) because what's particular about this travel ban, it's not the entire country but only selected areas in South Korea," said Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval in a press briefing in Malacanang.
She said it is easier to monitor visitors coming from China, Hong Kong, and Macau because it is "automatic" that the Immigration personnel could immediately stop them from entering the country.
"This one, it’s not entire South Korea. So what we did is through the inter-agency is we coordinate with the South Korean government and they pledged to issue a certification to know if that person, that foreign national is coming from those areas," she said.
But in the meantime that there is no such mechanism yet, she said, "We are looking at the resident registration certificate or the national ID of the foreign national for us to know if they came there if that is his address."
The Philippines has imposed a travel ban to all foreign nationals coming from North Gyeongsang province, Daegu and Cheongdo due to the high number of COVID-19 cases in those areas. Exemptions are Filipinos and their spouse and children, foreigners with Philippine permanent resident visas and members of the diplomatic corps.
As of Monday morning, Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in the same press briefing, said the Department of Health recorded 43 patients under investigation of possible COVID-19 infection, 13 of them came from New Clark City repatriates. A total of 592 patients have already been discharged.
"The decrease in the number of patients under investigation being admitted is welcome news to all. This may be attributed to our strengthened surveillance, early travel restrictions and enhanced laboratory processes. But this is not enough reason to let our guards down, the DOH will continuously assess the situation and improve its surveillance protocols based on evidence and further developments," she said.
Quoting the DOH report, Vergeire said as of March 2, there were 86 confirmed COVID-19 cases among the overseas Filipinos around the globe.
"Japan recorded the most overseas Filipino cases with a total of 80 from which 48 are still admitted and 32 had been discharged already; followed by UAE, Hong Kong, and Singapore with two cases each. The most recent case was a 41-year old Filipina who was admitted to a health facility in Singapore," she said.
So far, 58 countries have confirmed COVID-19 cases and 20 of them have local transmission. Celerina Monte/DMS