DOH chief: Postpone travel to Daegu, Cheongdo in South Korea

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Workers from a disinfection service company sanitize a street in front of a branch of the Shincheonji religious group in Daegu, South Korea, on February 19.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 25) – The Department of Health is urging Filipinos to postpone their travel to some parts of South Korea that have seen a spike in the number of people with coronavirus infection.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom, “I discourage absolutely any travel” to Daegu city and Cheongdo county in north Gyeongsang province, which reported local cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Duque also said those going to South Korea must monitor developments on the viral disease as precaution.

The Philippines has yet to impose a travel ban to and from South Korea, but authorities are considering the possibility of doing so.

The decision on whether or not to order travel restrictions similar to that imposed on mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau will “most likely” come out on Wednesday, after the Philippines’ task force on emerging diseases meeting to discuss recommendations for the management of COVID-19.

The top health official said the decision to impose a travel ban on a country or territory will depend on the volume of travelers, the rate of infection, risk of exposure to the virus, and economic impact on tourism and transportation sectors.

However, he said public health will prevail over other factors.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Sunday advised travelers to avoid non-essential trips to South Korea, and "comply" with health authorities’ efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

South Korea recorded 893 confirmed COVID-19 cases with eight deaths, CNN reported Tuesday, quoting state officials. Over half of total cases are linked to the Shincheonji religious group in Daegu City, according to South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.