PH reviews repatriation of Filipinos from China virus epicenter

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2020 02:54 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2020 03:58 PM

Airport personnel monitor a thermal scanner as passengers arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay, Jan. 23, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - The Philippine government is studying the possible repatriation of Filipinos from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the global epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak, as migrant workers there expressed desire to come home.

Malacañang will wait for the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the return of some 150 Filipinos from Wuhan, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, noting that the government has to be “cautious” to ensure that the Philippines remains free of the virus.

“We must consider the health issue on the spread [of the virus]. Ano ba mas makakabuti? That they’ll stay there for a while until the crisis is over or we’ll get them and bring them here and open the possibility of spreading it here?” he told reporters.

Filipinos working in Wuhan, where the virus outbreak started in December, have expressed worries over their condition as the Chinese city sought to control the spread of the virus.

Authorities have barred travel to and from Chinese province Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected before it spread across China and to a dozen other countries.

Health officials also confirmed cases of the virus in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, and the United States.

Panelo added that the government would also review the possible repatriation of Filipinos in other countries where there are confirmed cases of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it would temporarily stop issuing tourist visas on arrival to Chinese nationals in light of the virus scare.