Filipinos told to postpone Holy Land pilgrimage amid COVID-19 threats

Published March 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By PNA, Ariel Fernandez, Joseph Almer Pedrajas, and Noreen Jazul

Filipinos planning a pilgrimage tour of the Holy Land have been advised to postpone their trips following the various travel restrictions imposed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continues to spread worldwide.

Department of Foreign Affairs (MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Foreign Affairs (MANILA BULLETIN)

“The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advises all Filipinos planning to undertake pilgrimages to the Holy Land to postpone their trips until further notice,” the DFA said in an advisory dated March 6.

The Palestinian Authority has decided to temporarily ban the entry of all tourists into the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho, DFA said.

The Israeli government also decided to restrict all travels to Bethlehem from Israel.

“Prospective travelers are therefore advised to coordinate with their tour operators to avoid any inconvenience,” the department said.

At least 15 Covid-19 cases in Israel and seven in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have been confirmed, based on the latest data of the World Health Organization.

Stranded OFWs

Meanwhile, hundreds of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) were stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 after the Kuwaiti government suspended all flights to and from the Philippines, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Bangladesh, India, and Sri-Lank due to COVID-19.

In an advisory Saturday, Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said the temporary ban will start on March 6 and will last “until one week.”

Kuwait also banned the entry of persons who have traveled to the seven countries in the last two weeks.

Kuwait nationals with travel history to the seven countries will be allowed to enter but will undergo quarantine procedures upon arrival.

According to the report, Filipinos and the other six nationalities who have a “valid residency” in Kuwait or a “previous enter visa” will also be prohibited from entering their country if they were in their respective countries in the past two weeks.

 163 repatriated

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chartered an Air Macau flight to repatriate 167 Filipinos left stranded in Macau. However, only 163 arrived at the Ninoy Aquino  International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 at about 4 p.m. yesterday.

Of the 167, 137 are undocumented and irregular Filipino workers in Macau while 30 others are OWWA members.

According to the DFA, five repatriates “were unable to board for various reasons,” while one   “additional passenger [who] was able to join late.” No other details were available.

According to the DFA, the new set of repatriates were left stranded in the Chinese special administrative region since February following the travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government on various countries.

Although the restriction was eventually relaxed, the DFA was not able to send back the Filipinos in Macau because there were no flights available.

The DFA assured that the repatriates are asymptomatic who will undergo a 14-day home quarantine.

But if some will show signs of COVID-19 symptoms upon their arrival, they will immediately be brought to a medical facility for investigation, the department added.