No PH travel ban vs Singapore amid Filipino coronavirus case

SINGAPORE – The Philippine government is not implementing a travel ban against Singapore even if close to 90 individuals here, including a Filipino permanent resident of the city-state, have contracted the novel coronavirus.

Praising how the Singaporean government has handled the crisis, Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Yap said he will not recommend travel restrictions against Singapore. His superior, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr, earlier said he will also oppose a travel ban against the city-state.

“It’s unfortunate that we have a kababayan (countryman) affected by the virus, but the overall situation in Singapore really, I think, is stable and is in fact improving,” Yap told Rappler late Sunday evening, February 23. (READ: Singapore announces $4.6-billion boost to fight virus)

Yap cited information from the Singaporean Ministry of Health (MOH) that on Sunday there were no new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, in Singapore. Two were discharged from the hospital on the same day.

This brings to 51 the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19 in Singapore, which has 89 recorded cases of the disease as of Sunday.

“I think whatever protocols and procedures that Singapore has in place, seem to be showing results. If anything, there is even less reason now to have travel restrictions of any kind compared to one or two weeks ago,” Yap said.

He added, “I think we should just continue to be careful, to be cautious, but there's no reason to be panicking.”

What’s at stake

If a travel ban against Singapore is imposed, Yap said that “definitely, it will be very inconvenient for everybody.” 

The ambassador noted that Singapore is one of the Philippines’ top trading partners. Singapore is the Philippines’ top export market in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Philippines’ 5th biggest in the world, according to data from the Philippine embassy. Singapore is also the Philippines’ second largest international investor.

The embassy added that Singapore is the Philippines’ biggest tourist market in ASEAN.

“It’s not as simple as just saying, you know, we’ll ban people for health reasons. We have to seriously weigh the pros and cons, whether the damage will be much more than what we’re trying to prevent,” Yap explained.

Locsin earlier also opposed a travel ban against Singapore, as he tweeted on February 14: “I will not support a travel ban to and from ASEAN Singapore. A ban should hinge NOT on the incidence and number of infections/fatalities but on the demonstrated capability of the state concerned to contain the disease and strictly regulate ingress and egress from its air/seaports.”

The MOH on Sunday informed the Philippine embassy that a male Filipino permanent resident of Singapore contracted the novel coronavirus. Singapore has not disclosed the identity of the Filipino patient, and will only give more information to the Philippine government if the Filipino gives his consent.

Singapore will shoulder the Filipino patient’s hospital bills, as the city-state does with other COVID-19 cases. Yap said the Philippine embassy however is willing to help in reaching out to the Filipino patient’s relatives or flying them into Singapore if needed. 

In the first few weeks after Singapore got its first case of COVID-19, the city-state had the highest number of novel coronavirus cases outside China. It has since been overtaken by South Korea and Japan.

Singapore has at least 89 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Singaporean government as of Sunday evening. Of these cases, 65 contracted the virus in Singapore while 24 got it outside the country.

The Singaporean government said 49 patients have been discharged, 35 remain stable, and 5 others remain in critical condition. No one has died due to the virus in Singapore.  – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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