President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday issued a warning against outbound travel of Filipinos following the Palace’s announcement that the ban on which has been lifted amid the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a national address that aired around Tuesday of Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the outbound travel of Filipinos, which had been strictly prohibited since March in a bid to curb COVID-19 transmissions in the country.
The IATF also removed all restrictions on the non-essential travel of Filipinos. The agency limited the outdoor movement of Filipinos to medical and social services only during the stricter community quarantine phases.
Travel for tourism purposes, however, will be subjected to certain conditions set by the IATF.
Roque in the same press briefing, enumerated the following IATF guidelines for Filipinos who plan on traveling abroad during the global crisis:
- Confirmed roundtrip tickets for travelers with tourist visas
- Sufficient travel and health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodations in case of acquiring the deadly virus outside the country
- The foreign country has no existing travel ban to incoming travelers from the Philippines
- An official declaration acknowledging the risks of traveling
Travel risks, according to Duterte
During his televised national address that was aired at 1 a.m. of Wednesday, Duterte reiterated the lifting of such restrictions but he also raised concerns on the possible costs Filipinos will shoulder if they get infected overseas.
“Adequate travel and health insurance to cover rebooking and accommodation expenses if stranded, and hospitalization in case of infection. Medyo mabigat ito. Ewan ko how much would be added to your expenses but itong insurance mabigat ito na kung while in travel magkasakit ka,” he said.
Duterte suggested possibly availing the services of Blue Cross Philippines, a big health care provider with accredited hospitals across the country.
“Ano ito — this is a very expensive proposition. Tayo, hindi tayo maka-afford nito, ‘yung ano lang. The Blue Cross is almost like in membership. Ito naman, ano lang ito, pangkaraniwan lang sa travel,” he said.
The president also reminded Filipino who wishes to travel overseas of the risks in traveling amid a pandemic.
“Ito nga eh, kaya hinihingi na dito ngayon. Execution of a declaration acknowledging the risks involved in traveling, including the risk of delay in their return trip. This is so because COVID is still rampaging,” he said.
International media organizations Bloomberg and the Straits Times also picked up the news on government’s decision to lift the travel ban amid the spike of infected individuals both in the Philippines and in most countries in the world.
Why should we worry about this announcement?
As of July 7, the Department of Health reported a total of 47,873 confirmed cases and 34,178 active ones, which surpassed the previous prediction of the University of the Philippines researchers.
The death toll also exceeded the 1,000-mark at 1,309 while those who have recovered are 12,386.
Data analyst Edson Guido also posted on Twitter the exponential growth of transmissions from March to July.
LOOK: Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines
July 1 to 7: +10,361
The spread of the virus is still exponential. Stay safe.
(Note: The totals took into account the duplicates DOH removed from the case count) pic.twitter.com/8VSvjTztH3
— Edson (@EdsonCGuido) July 8, 2020
Given the situation, several Filipinos expressed concern and alarm on social media over the consequences of allowing Filipinos to move around amid the high-risk of getting infected by COVID-19.
ABS-CBN host Gretchen Ho said: “I’m not confident about this.”
I'm not confident about this. 😬https://t.co/s90KbAvBa8
— Gretchen Ho (@gretchenho) July 7, 2020
Another user also reminded others to stay at home despite the removal of restrictions to keep others safe as well.
“If you love your families and friends, tell them to stay at home at all cost. The Philippines is just about to have the worst numbers yet and the government will just simply blame the Filipinos for not staying at home. For sure,” the user said.