The Philippines will not ban travel to South Korea despite the increasing number of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cases there, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.
“Wala tayong ini-impose na travel restriction at wala tayong balak in the near future [na]mag-impose ng travel restriction (We have not imposed travel restrictions and we have no plans of imposing travel restrictions in the near future),” Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a radio interview aired over dzMM.
Six people have died of MERS-CoV in the past week and reports said 87 people have been infected with the virus while 2,500 people have been quarantined. The outbreak shut down 2,000 schools.
Jose said the World Health Organization (WHO) has also not announced a pandemic in South Korea so Filipinos should not be wary about traveling there.
“The South Korean government is taking measures to address the situation there and our embassy in Seoul is monitoring closely the situation and remains in touch with the Filipino community,” he said.
Although restrictions were not imposed, Jose cautioned Filipinos visiting South Korea.
As for those Filipinos coming home from South Korea, the official said this should be no cause for concern because Philippine airports are equipped with thermal scanners to help determine if returning Filipinos or foreigners are suffering from MERS-CoV-like symptoms.
Over the weekend, the Philippine Embassy in Seoul warned Filipinos to take precautionary measures when going outside so as not to catch the virus.
They also urged Filipinos to practice proper hygiene and to consult doctors and specialists as soon as symptoms occur.
Medical personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) intensified their monitoring of arriving passengers from South Korea following an advisory from the Philippine Embassy in Seoul.
NAIA quarantine physician Roberto Salvador said although there is no outbreak of MERS-Cov, they are closely monitoring passengers, particularly those coming from Incheon and Seoul.
“We always use our thermal scanners and the non-touch head temperature to determine if the passenger/s inflicted with flu,” Salvador said.
MERS-Cov was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.