NTF revises travel suspension rule amid spike in COVID-19 cases

Published March 19, 2021, 12:00 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 on Friday, March 19, issued new directives pertaining to the temporary travel suspension it imposed on foreigners and returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) to address the rising number of coronavirus disease cases in the country.

(JANSEN ROMERO / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, NTF chairperson, released Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 6, series of 2021 dated Thursday, March 18, which stated that all Filipino citizens, whether an ROF or Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), shall now be “allowed to return to the Philippines.”

The new memorandum changed the earlier directive stated under MC No. 5 dated March 16, which temporarily banned the entry to the country of ROFs who were not OFWs. This was meant to prevent the entry of new variants of the coronavirus.

All foreign nationals will still be prevented from entering the country except for the following:

  • Diplomats and members of international organizations, and their dependents provided they hold a valid 9 (e) visa or 47 (a)(2) visa, as the case may be, at the time of entry;
  • Foreign nationals involved in medical repatriation duly endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), provided that they have a valid visa at the time of entry;
  • Foreign seafarers under the “Green Lanes” program for crew change provided that they hold a 9(c) crew list visa at the time of entry;
  • Foreign spouses and children of Filipino citizens travelling with them provided they have valid visas at the time of entry; and
  • Emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the Chairperson of the NTF COVID-19 or his duly authorized representative, provided the foreign nationals have valid visas at the time of entry.

Lorenzana also said that the new directives will now take effect from 12:10 a.m. Monday, March 22, to 11:59 p.m. of April 21.

Prior to this, the NTF set the effectivity of the travel suspension from March 20 to to April 19 only.

Furthermore, the travel of Filipinos and exempted foreign nationals during the period of restriction “shall be subjected to the arrival quota set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).”

At present, the NTF has limited to 1,500 the number of passenger arrivals in the country.

The new travel restrictions will be implemented amid the surge in the number of active COVID-19 cases in the country.

On Thursday, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 5,290 new cases, the fifth highest tally since the start of the pandemic last year. This pushed the total number of COVID-19 cases to 640,984.

 
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