The Philippine government has suspended the entry of foreign nationals and returning overseas Filipinos who are non-overseas Filipino workers into the country starting Saturday, March 20 until Monday, April 19.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) also directed concerned agencies to limit the number of inbound international passengers to 1,500 a day.
The said the measures were meant to prevent a further rise in coronavirus cases as well as to prevent the entry of coronavirus variants from other countries.
Under Memorandum Circular No. 5, the following individuals are exempted from the entry ban:
- Holders of 9(c) visas
- Medical repatriation and their escort/s duly endorsed by the DFA-OUMWA or OWWA
- Distressed ROFs duly endorsed by DFA-OUMWA
- Emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the NTF-COVID-19
Capacity at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for inbound international travelers will be limited to a maximum of 1,500 passengers per day beginning March 18, 2021 until April 18, 2021. pic.twitter.com/P3OOnwtUhn— Department of Health (@DOHgovph) March 16, 2021
According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday, labor attachés will be responsible for selecting the 1,500 passengers.
“We will leave this to the discretion of our labor attaché. Syempre sila nakakaalam kung sino ang nauna nag-apply at kung sino ang unang nakapag-qualify, syempre bibigyan nila ng priority,” Bello said in a live briefing.
(We will leave this to the discretion of our labor attaché, They are the ones who know who were the first to apply and who were the first to qualify. Of course, they will give priority.)
“So our labor attachés are in the best position to determine kung sino ipa-prioritize (who to prioritize) when it comes to meeting the limit of 1,500 a day,” he added.
The Labor Secretary also welcomed the suspension, saying the limit would help ease the burden on hotel quarantine facilities.
“[S]a totoo lang, nauubusan na tayo ng hotel… Umaabot na tayo from hanggang Tagaytay, hanggang Batangas, sa kakahanap ng hotel for quarantine accommodation. Kaya magandang patakaran ‘yun,” he said.
(Truthfully, we are running out of hotels... we reach as far as Tagaytay, as far as Batangas, in search of hotel for quarantine accommodation. This is a good policy.)
The measures were the latest in a series of moves to curb the alarming increase in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks.
Metro Manila, one of the regions hardest hit by the spike, has imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. from March 15 to March 31.
Granular lockdowns and a prohibition on liquor sales have also been implemented.
The steep increase was monitored after the government eased restrictions on public transportation and some business establishments to restart the economy.
At present, the Philippines has recorded 117 UK variant cases, 90 South Africa variant cases, and 85 COVID-19 cases with the two mutations of concern.
On Monday, the Department of Health said that at least seven percent of the samples from COVID-19 cases in the country involved new variants of coronavirus.
The OCTA Research Group said the Philippines could see 11,000 new COVID-19 cases daily by the end of March as it noted an upward trend in infections.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has reported a total of 631,320 confirmed cases, of which 560,736 have recovered and 12,848 have died. -NB, GMA News