SBMA bans cruise ships, planes, travellers from COVID affected countries

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT —The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) approved a temporary ban on cruise ships, airplanes and travellers coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, as well as other countries affected by the new coronavirus disease (COVID -19).

SBMA Chairman Wilma T. Eisma said several measures were ratified by the SBMA board of directors on Tuesday under Board Resolution No. 20-02-1610 to ensure the health and safety of workers, residents, locators and visitors in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ).

“While Subic is a global trade gateway, we have to enforce this ban on persons and ships from affected countries and other safety precautions to protect the stakeholders of Subic Bay,” she added.

The measures included a temporary ban on the entry of persons, regardless of nationality, who come directly from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, or had travelled to these places within 14 days prior to arrival in the Philippines, as well as on cruise ships and airplanes coming from COVID-affected countries, or carrying passengers from any country affected by the virus.

Subic’s entry ban does not cover Filipino citizens and holders of permanent residency visa issued by the Philippine government, Eisma said. But the SBMA resolution also temporarily banned the travel of Filipinos from Subic to China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, she added.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 43,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported throughout the world since the outbreak early this year in China where the virus death toll has reached more than a thousand.

The affected countries included the Philippines, which recorded the only one other death outside of China, and 23 others:  South Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Eisma said that as part of precautions in Subic, the SBMA board also ordered the mandatory physical inspection of all foreign nationals entering SBMA gates to check for body temperature, cough, colds and other symptoms associated with COVID-19.

“Should a foreign national be positive for high body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, cough or colds and/or exhibit symptoms indicative of (COVID-19), he or she, as well as the travelling companions and their vehicle will not be allowed to enter the Freeport Zone,” Eisma said.

She added that if the foreign national is a Freeport resident and is able to provide proof of residency, he or she will be admitted entry but will be required to proceed directly to his or her residence and will be reported to the Department of Health’) Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit for monitoring.

The SBMA board likewise required SBFZ residents, locators and employees who travelled from China, Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan in the past 14 days to stay at home for self-quarantine even if they did not exhibit any sign or symptom of respiratory infection.  These persons will be considered “persons under monitoring” (PUM), Eisma said.

The required self-quarantine will also apply to anyone who came from other parts of the world with confirmed COVID-19 infection, has no history of exposure, but with fever and/or cough, she added.

Meanwhile, those exhibiting any COVID-19 symptom will be considered “patient under investigation” (PUI) and will be directed to the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department, or to any choice hospital.

Eisma said the Subic agency has also required foreign nationals applying for Alien Employment Permit to submit a medical certificate that he/she has no symptoms indicative of COVID-19 for the past 14 days.

The SBMA has also asked business locators to undertake daily thermal scanning of personnel in their offices and facilities and to observe disinfection practices, for schools in the Freeport to suspend all off-campus activities, and for hotels operators to report any guest who has travelled from China or any other affected countries in the past 14 days prior to check-in for monitoring purposes.