Flights temporarily suspended to avert COVID-19 spread
MANILA – With Philippine Health authorities reporting 295 new COVID-19 cases against a backdrop of 90 new recoveries as the death toll rose to 607, government authorities led by Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief implementor of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 opted to temporarily suspect inbound international passenger flights effective 8:00 A.M. today.
In a letter addressed to Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade dated yesterday and posted by the Ninoy Aquino International Airport late Saturday night, cargo operations, medical supplies, utility and maintenance flights shall be allowed and will remain unimpeded and subject to IATF protocols,
In the same letter, Secretary Galvez said the suspension of international passenger flights would remain unhampered subject to IATF protocols.
The moratorium on flights was ordered to give the national government to increase the capacity of quarantine facilities as repatriates continue to return home. Secretary Galvez said with the suspension of inbound flights would allow government agencies to upgrade testing and screening protocols and increase quarantine and medical facilities.
Meanwhile Foreign Affairs Asst. Secretary Ed Meñez said the repatriation efforts are adjusted to comply with the directives from the National Task Force on COVID-19.
“OFWs will remain where they are in the meantime – many ship crew members are assisted by their manning agencies, some others register with the embassy then proceed to pick-up points or the airport when a flight is scheduled. For those who may already be at airports, they will be assisted as best possible under the circumstances,” Asst. Secretary Meñez said in a text message to Foreign Affairs beat reporters.
Incidentally, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said international flights wishing to land and depart must request exemption with the CAAP Operations Center at least 36 hours before the scheduled departure from their place of origin.
The DFA said 16,936 sea-based and 7,486 land-based workers returned to the Philippines as of yesterday since COVID -19 resulted in lockdowns and closure of mainline business.
There were 10 new COVID-19 cases among overseas Filipinos and now 1,751 confirmed cases with five new recoveries for a total of 471 and three additional deaths for a total of 210 deaths in 46 countries. (Melo M. Acuña)