Filipinos working in Hong Kong, Macau now exempt from travel ban

At Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 <i>Photo: Mark Demayo / ABS-CBN News</i>
At Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 Photo: Mark Demayo / ABS-CBN News

Filipinos working in Hong Kong and Macau are now allowed to return to their jobs, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed today, an exception to the still in-effect coronavirus travel ban that prohibits the entry of all nationalities coming from China’s special administrative regions.

DFA Undersecretary Brigido Dulay confirmed the travel ban exemption, saying this was decided during a recent meeting with the Department of Health’s infectious diseases agency. Dulay added that this new directive is still subject to “certain procedural formalities.”

This comes after the health department said yesterday that they are mulling over the possibility of lifting the ban entirely on Hong Kong and Macau, just as it has recently scrapped a similar ban on Taiwan.

After President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a travel ban on China and its special administrative regions on Feb. 2, thousands of Filipino workers bound for Hong Kong and Macau were left stranded in the Philippines. Days following the ban, the government offered each of the stranded Filipino workers in the country PHP10,000 (US$197), as well as free lodging, food, and airfare to those who needed to return to their hometowns.

The ban was imposed after a Chinese patient died of COVID-19 in the Philippines — the first fatality outside of China. The ban was also extended to Taiwan, but was lifted over the weekend after the self-governed island insisted that it was not part of China and that the Philippines was “misled” by the World Health Organization.

According to 2018 government figures, about 145,000 workers or 6.3 percent of the estimated 2.3 million Filipinos working abroad are working in Hong Kong.

Read: Health Department to assess coronavirus risks as PH considers lifting HK, Macau travel ban

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs today confirmed that eight more Filipinos have been infected by the virus aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which is currently docked in the port of Yokohama. This brings up the total number of Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 to 35, all of whom are crew members. They have been transferred to Japanese hospitals and are now undergoing treatment.

The health department is looking for quarantine facilities for all 538 Filipinos on board the ship, all of whom need  to undergo another 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the country.


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