36 Chinese travelers turned away at Manila airport amid travel ban over virus spread

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 08 2020 11:37 AM

Travelers pass through a health screening lane as they arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay, City, Feb. 04, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Philippine immigration authorities on Friday barred 36 Chinese travelers from entry to Manila amid a ban on travel to and from China and its territories due to the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

The foreigners, who flew in via a Philippine Airlines flight from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were denied entry at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 as immigration officers found out they had come from Macau, among cities covered by the travel ban.

"They were denied entry after our officers discovered upon inspection that they were traveling as a group and that they have been to Macau last Feb. 1," said Bureau of Immigrations (BI) port operations division chief Grifton Medina in a statement.

The Chinese passengers were booked on the first available flight back to Phnom Penh.

The Philippines on Sunday, Feb. 2, instituted travel restrictions on China and its territories, including Hong Kong and Macau, in an effort to contain the outbreak.

The spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD), which has killed at least 722 people and infected nearly 35,000 others as of Saturday, originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente urged airline companies to "do their share in implementing the travel ban and prevent the entry of foreigners from the areas of concern."

Immigration officials are mulling the possibility of imposing fines against errant airlines, he said.

As coronavirus infections continue to rise, the BI will now require both foreign and Filipino passengers abroad to completely fill out and submit their arrival cards.

Morente said he instructed immigration duty supervisors to strictly enforce the new policy so the bureau could help in tracing passengers who have traveled to China.

Previously, only foreign passengers arriving at the airports are required to fill out the arrival cards while Filipinos are obliged to fill out embarkation cards when they leave the country.

The bureau has also implemented strict screening of applications for the extended stay of foreign tourists to check if they traveled to China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days from their arrival, Morente said.

Applicants covered by the restriction shall be turned over to the Bureau of Quarantine for medical assessment, he added.

"We have developed a series of checking, double-checking, even triple checking to ensure that we assist our health authorities in monitoring the travelers. We do what we can to help prevent the spread of this virus," Morente said.