Duterte asks local carriers, hotels to help boost PH tourism amid COVID-19 threat

Robie de Guzman   •   February 12, 2020   •   315

MANILA, Philippines – Tourism industry stakeholders agreed to help boost domestic travel by offering discounted airfare and hotel rates following a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, Malacañang said.

Duterte called for the meeting to discuss plans to counter the negative effects of the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and to promote the country’s tourism sector to local tourists.

The move comes after the Philippine government imposed a temporary entry ban on foreign nationals who travelled to virus-hit areas in China and its special administrative regions, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, in the past 14 days in a bid to contain the spread of the disease.

Chinese and Taiwanese nationals, as well as South Koreans, are among the country’s top visitors.

Malacañang said that during the meeting, the president revealed that some of the country’s major airlines and hotels agreed to offer lower rates to make a viable market for local tourists.

“The President wants Filipinos to visit the country’s local tourist destinations to boost the industry in the midst of the coronavirus scare,” the Palace said in a press statement.

Duterte also said that local tourism industry has a lot to offer as he highlighted the country’s “good public health and law and order situation.”

“Local tourist spots are also readily accessible,” the Palace added.

The chief executive also expressed optimism that like other epidemics, the COVID-19 will eventually be contained, Malacañang said.

Among those who attended the meeting held in Pasay City were Philippine Hotel Owners Association President Arthur Lopez, AirAsia Philippines CEO Ricardo Isla, Philippine Airlines President Gilbert Santamaria, and Cebu Pacific Air President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato, Tourism Assistant Secretary Howard Lance Uyking and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go were also present.

In a press conference after the meeting, Romulo-Puyat revealed that Duterte will also help promote domestic travel by visiting top tourist destinations beginning next week.

She said the president may visit Boracay, Cebu and Bohol in a bid to prove that domestic travel remains safe amid novel coronavirus threat.

Romulo-Puyat also said that the tourism sector would intensify its promotions and roll out more value-added packages, discounted accommodation and airfare for local tourists in the coming days.

2 of 3 Filipinos from Japan showing COVID-19 symptoms test negative

Robie de Guzman   •   February 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Two of the three Filipino repatriates from the virus-stricken cruise ship in Japan tested negative for COVID-19 despite manifesting symptoms of the deadly coronavirus disease while under quarantine, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday, February 28.

The DOH said that based on laboratory test results that came out this morning, two Filipinos turned out negative for the infection while one is still awaiting results.

The two repatriates who tested negative no longer need to undergo another set of laboratory test but will be placed under strict monitoring, the agency added.

The DOH also assured all three are in stable condition.

Based on the Philippines’ quarantine guidelines, persons exhibiting signs and symptoms of the disease should be separated from asymptomatic individuals for observation.

Those who are found infected with the virus will be placed in isolation in a health facility while those who tested negative will continue the quarantine period at a facility in New Clark City.

The three were brought to a hospital in Central Luzon on Thursday morning after they experienced sore throat and dry cough.

They were among the more than 400 Filipinos evacuated from the coronavirus-hit MV Diamond Princess cruise ship off Yokohama, Japan last Tuesday, February 25, and placed under 14-day quarantine at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.

The cruise ship was placed on quarantine after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19.

Of the 3,700 passengers and crew members, more than 700 were found infected with coronavirus, including 80 Filipinos.

All asymptomatic persons aboard the vessel have already disembarked, while those infected were admitted at hospitals in Japan for proper treatment. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Saudi Arabia suspends entry for pilgrimage, tourism amid coronavirus

UNTV News   •   February 27, 2020

Saudi Arabia on Thursday (February 27) suspended foreigners’ entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread, as a growing number of cases outside China deepened fears of a pandemic.

The kingdom, which hosts the two holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina, welcomes millions of Muslim visitors throughout the year with a peak for the haj pilgrimage. It introduced a new tourism visa last October for 49 countries.

The ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear if the haj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted.

Entry is also suspended for visits to the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. Saudi Arabia has had no cases of the coronavirus but it has been spreading in some neighbouring countries.

The ministry did not specify people from which countries would be impacted but said the kingdom’s health authorities would determine where the outbreak constituted a danger. (Reuters)

DOH traces 26 Korean passengers of Cebu-bound flight amid coronavirus spread in South Korea

Robie de Guzman   •   February 27, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said it is now tracing passengers who arrived Tuesday in Cebu from north Gyeongsang province in South Korea, a day after the government imposed partial travel restrictions on the East Asian nation due to the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) there.

The DOH issued the statement following reports that 26 South Koreans from Daegu landed at Mactan Cebu International Airport on Tuesday evening.

Daegu is among the areas covered by the Philippines’ temporary entry ban on travelers from north Gyeongsang, which was announced on Wednesday after South Korea reported increase in confirmed coronavirus infections.

DOH-7 regional director Jaime Bernadas said they are now working to locate the passengers, with the help of the Bureau of Quarantine and other local government agencies.

Bernadas said the passengers will be treated as persons under monitoring even if they are not manifesting symptoms of the deadly disease.   

“Susubaybayan natin sila kung saan sila pupunta, kung saan sila pumunta, kung saang hotel sila and advise the hotel kung nasaan sila at kung anong mga restrictions. Sa hotels, sa resorts, i-veverify natin ang kanilang whereabouts,” he said.

He also said that the travelers will not be placed under quarantine, but they will be advised to follow self-isolation protocol. They will also be brought to a hospital should they develop symptoms.

“Wala tayong advisory on doing the quarantine on them, i-momonitor lang natin sila muna. At kung may nararamdaman na sila, dadalhin na diretso sa ospital,” he said.

As of February 27, there are now 82,164 people infected with the virus.

Outside China, South Korea reported the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections with more than 1,200 cases. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Gladys Toabi)

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