Filipinos warned against traveling to coronavirus-hit areas in China

By Genalyn Kabiling

Concerned about public health and safety, the government has discouraged Filipinos from visiting coronavirus-hit places in China for the meantime to avoid infection.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said travelers should consider health precautions and defer any business or leisure trip to the Chinese cities where there have been cases of the new coronavirus.

"Kung pagpunta mo doon you will be opening yourself to the virus, eh bakit ka pa pupunta roon? (If you go there, you will be opening yourself to the virus so why go there?) Those who are intending to go there should think about their own health safety," Panelo said during a press conference in Malacañang.

"Pigilan nila ang sarili nila kung gusto nilang nasa mabuting kalagayan ang kalusugan nila. kasi you will be exposing yourself kung pupunta ka roon e nag-lo lockdown down nga doon eh. Moreover, baka hindi rin sila makapasok doon kung may restriction ang travel (They should stop themselves if they want to keep a good health condition because you will be exposing yourself if you go there. There is already a lockdown. Moreover, you might not even be allowed to enter if there are some travel restrictions)," he said.

China has stepped up measures to contain the spread of the new coronavirus that has claimed more than 100 lives and infected thousands. Several Chinese cities including Wuhan where the virus originated from have reportedly been placed on strict lockdown.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in other countries. So far, the Philippines remained free of the virus but 27 patients are under investigation for suspected infection.

Panelo admitted that he would not visit China at this time due to the latest health emergency.

"Siyempre hindi ako pupunta (Of course, I will not go there)," he said, when asked if he gets an invitation from his counterpart to visit China. "I will ask him to come here instead," he added.

Panelo also said he would ask President Duterte if the government will impose a travel ban to China where an outbreak of the virus has been reported. "If he has any directive, it will be stated immediately for compliance," he said.

The government will also look into the proposal to expand the suspension of visa-upon arrival to other foreigners into the country as a preventive measure, according to Panelo.

He said the Palace would wait for the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) on whether or not to impose such travel restrictions for other travelers visiting the country.

He said immigration authorities have temporarily suspended issuing visas upon arrival for Chinese nationals.