What is one of the best ways to keep a viral pandemic from spreading? The easy answer is to lock everything down. That has what the Philippines has been doing ever since the dreaded COVID-19 infection crossed the sea from Wuhan in China early this year. Come the middle of March the country became a prison of sorts, all but the most essential front-line personnel and workers were in their homes. Nobody foreign got out except in flights back to their nations, nor in at all. But that is going to change by next month according to a new announcement.
GMA News has it that Malacañang has pegged a set date for when foreign nationals can once again enter the Philippines as restrictions to safeguard against the COVID pandemic are even more gradually relaxed. An interview this Friday, July 17 with Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque made known the conditions agreed upon by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Thursday, July 16, by which nationals from other countries can once again step on Philippine soil effective on August 1. First, Roque notes that no new Philippine entry visa for foreigners will yet be issued. Rather, only those who already have existing and still-valid long-term visas can enter.
Where before only Filipinos and their families, plus accredited officials of foreign governments and international organizations, and the aircrews of foreign airlines, were allowed entry into the country during the more stringent levels of lockdown, more foreign nationals with their existing entry visas can come along. But they have to allow returning Filipinos from overseas the priority in aircraft seating. Finally, they must also pre-book both a COVID-19 testing provider and a quarantine facility where they must test for coronavirus and wait out the 14-day incubation period for possible infection.
Foreign nationals with long-term visas, as Spokesman Roque explains, tend to be those who consider the Philippines a place of residency. This is why the IATF and a government-assembled technical working group immediately began to hash out regulations for their return to the country if they had been abroad when the COVI-19 lockdowns began. The TWG still has more work on its plate to gradually increase the number of entering foreign nationals in the coming days. Already Filipinos have been allowed to engage in non-essential overseas travel, provided that they have confirmed round-trip tickets (if travelling on tourist visas) and declarations where they acknowledge the risks of leaving the country during an ongoing viral outbreak.
Image from The Jakarta Post