Asia Today: Philippines allowing foreign travel to resume

International

A woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus uses her hand to shield from the wind on a street in Beijing, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines on Wednesday lifted a ban on non-essential foreign trips by Filipinos, but the immigration bureau said the move did not immediately spark large numbers of departures for tourism and leisure.

The government has gradually eased travel restrictions to bolster the economy, which slipped into recession in the second quarter following months of lockdown and quarantine to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Travelers to other countries are required to show confirmed roundtrip tickets, travel and health insurance, a declaration acknowledging the risks of travel and trip delays, and a medical test within 24 hours of departure that clears them of COVID-19.

Aside from tedious pre-departure requirements, many countries still restrict the entry of travelers from nations with high number of coronavirus infections, including the Philippines. The Department of Health has reported more than 360,000 confirmed cases, the second-highest in Southeast Asia, with at least 6,690 deaths.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Prime Minister Narendra Modi says laxity could lead to a new surge in infections, as India reported 54,044 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, taking the overall tally past 7.6 million. The Health Ministry on Wednesday also reported 717 additional deaths for a total of 115,914. Deaths and new cases per day have been declining in India since last month, but Modi is urging people to continue wearing masks and observing social distancing until a vaccine is available. Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the ongoing religious festival season that includes huge gatherings in temples and shopping districts.

— Australian authorities say they’re treating a COVID-19 case in the city of Melbourne as a rare reinfection. The only coronavirus case reported in the former hot spot of Victoria state on Tuesday had also tested positive in July. Victoria Premier Dan Andrews said Wednesday an expert panel’s decision to classify the case as a reinfection reflected “an abundance of caution” rather than conclusive evidence. Melbourne has been in lockdown since early July, but restrictions in Australia’s second-largest city are easing this week as daily infection tallies remain low. Victoria reported three new cases on Wednesday. The state’s second wave peaked at 725 new infections in a day in early August.

— Eighteen fishing crewmen who last week flew to New Zealand from Moscow have tested positive for the coronavirus, underscoring the difficulty New Zealand faces in trying to import needed workers while remaining virtually virus free. A total of 235 crew from Russia and Ukraine were on the flight chartered by three fishing companies. Before leaving Moscow, they were supposed to have self-isolated for two weeks and tested negative for the virus. All remain in quarantine at a Christchurch hotel.

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