Foreign affairs chief opposes possible Singapore travel ban

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 14) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr. said Friday he is against a possible travel ban to Singapore over the outbreak of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.

Locsin argued that imposing a travel ban to and from other countries should not be based on their number of confirmed cases.

"I will not support a travel ban to & from ASEAN Singapore. A ban should hinge NOT on the incidence & # of infections/fatalities but on the demonstrated capability of the state concerned to contain the disease & strictly regulate ingress and egress from its air/sea ports," he said on Twitter.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a radio interview also on Friday that the Inter-Agency Task force on infectious diseases may discuss the possible travel ban on the city-state. Singapore has tallied at least 67 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, which tracks cases worldwide.

However, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who also attended the meeting, told CNN Philippines that the matter was not taken up.

The task force also agreed to lift the travel ban on Taiwan. Officials in Taipei earlier questioned Taiwan's inclusion in the travel restrictions imposed on China and its special administrative regions such as Hong Kong and Macau when it has less confirmed cases compared to other countries and territories. Taiwan has recorded at least 18 cases of COVID-19.

The task force said in its resolution Friday that the ban was initially imposed on Taiwan since it is used as a transit port by passengers from mainland China, where the virus outbreak originated from.

It said it "is convinced that the protocols provide reliable assurance that sufficient measures are in place to effectively prevent potential carriers of the disease from entering or departing Taiwan."

However, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo earlier said Taiwan was included in the ban as the World Health Organization counts Taiwan as part of China.

Taiwan has been governed separately from China since 1949 but is recognized as an independent state by only a few countries. China, an economic giant in the region, imposes a One-China policy in its foreign relations and considers Taiwan as its province.

Meanwhile, the Philippines tallied three confirmed cases — all Chinese nationals with travel history to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak. One of the patients, a 44-year-old man, died from the infection, the Health Department announced earlier this month.