A PASSENGER arrives at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport
(NAIA) Terminal 1 in Paranaque City Wednesday. The government
suspended the entry of foreigners and returning citizens -- except
for overseas Filipino workers -- into the country for a month starting
March 20 to prevent further spread COVID-19. (Ali Vicoy)
BY MARTIN SADONGDONG, GENALYN KABILING
The national government will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners and returning citizens – except for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) – into the country for a month starting March 20, Saturday, in a bid to stop the surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairperson of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, issued on Tuesday night Memorandum Circular No. 5 series of 2021 prohibiting the entry of “foreigners and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who are considered as non-overseas Filipino workers beginning Saturday, March 20, 2021, 12:01 a.m. until April 19, 2021.”
The memorandum also limits the number of inbound international passengers/arrivals to 1,500 a day “[i]n light of efforts to prevent the entry of SARS-CoV-2 variants from other countries and the further rise of cases.”
However, Lorenzana said in the memo that there are several exemptions to the new rule such as those: holders of 9 (c) visa; medical repatriation and their escort/s duly endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); distressed ROFs duly endorsed by the (DFA-OUMWA); and emergency, humanitarian, and other analogous cases approved by the NTF COVID-19.
Malacañang has defended the temporary closure of the country’s borders to certain travelers, saying such “decisive action” was crucial to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus in the country.
“Kailangan natin gawin ang decisive na action na ito para hindi po kumalat ang virus pati na po yung mga variants nito,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a video message sent to Palace reporters Wednesday, March 17.
Prior to the release of the memo, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has announced that it will reduce the number of passenger arrivals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to 1,500 per day from 8 a.m. March 18 to 8 a.m. April 18.
“These are among the measures that were agreed upon during the emergency meeting of the Task Force’s vaccine and response clusters. We shall be implementing these as soon as possible to contain local transmissions,” said NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr.
Along with the new government interventions, Galvez said that security forces were tapped to strictly enforce the minimum health standards including the tightening of security at COVID-19 designated quarantine facilities and observance of protocols in business establishments.
This month, the country has seen an alarming rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases which Galvez said could be a result of the complacency of the people due to the arrival of the vaccines, and the entry of new coronavirus variants.