February 17 ------ Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. is recommending the lifting of the ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), specifically household workers, to return Hong Kong following reports that there were no new confirmed cases of Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the former Crown Colony over the weekend. “Time to allow our domestic workers to return to their employers in Hong Kong. Eagerly awaited,” Locsin said in a tweet on Saturday, adding that Hong Kong has better facilities to contain the virus.
Locsin said he promised to reconsider lifting the ban in “two weeks.” Health authorities in Hong Kong confirmed there were no new cases on Saturday but admitted they would need more time to monitor developments citywide. “Although there are no new confirmed cases today because the incubation period of the pathogen can be up to 14 days or even longer, it’s hard to say if the outbreak has reached its peak. We still need to monitor the conditions for some time,” an official from Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection was quoted as saying.
On February 3, Locsin asked President Duterte to lift the temporary ban that the latter imposed on Filipino workers in China and its administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Let our OFWs return to the HK employers who treat them well,” Locsin said in a tweet he posted on Feb. 3. The foreign secretary said the President assured him that “he will do something” about the temporary ban.
On Friday, Malacañang lifted the ban imposed on Taiwan after the government in Taipei protested and threatened retaliatory measures. Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Saturday said the Philippine government will reconsider the travel ban imposed on Hong Kong and Macao. She said the lifting would be based on the protocols of the two territories in containing the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The question of whether Manila is looking at the ban’s removal came after it withdrew the restriction on Taiwan.
“(For) as long as protocols are imposed. With the case of Taiwan, they were able to show us that protocols were stricter because before, there was a question that people from China could go to Taiwan and come to the Philippines without any detection,” Romulo-Puyat said in a CNN Philippines interview. Romulo-Puyat said Taiwan was able to assure the Philippine government it implements strict protocol on handling travelers. “Of course, in the tourism industry we would want no ban on any tourists but of course safety first,” she said. President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a ban on Filipinos from and to China and its Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macao in early February amid the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Early this week, Romulo-Puyat said the Philippines stands to lose about US$291.71 million (P14.83 billion) in February, 2020, due to the travel restrictions on tourists to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macao. (With PNA)