Covid-19: Philippines imposes travel ban, Emirates and Etihad restrict passenger numbers

Foreigners and some Filipino citizens face a month-long ban on travel into Manila

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing hazmat suits for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 14, 2021. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

The Philippines has announced a ban on foreigners and on some citizens entering the country at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The government's new rules will come into effect on Saturday and run for one month, until at least April 19.

Foreigners and returning citizens who have not been working overseas will not be able to enter the Philippines during the temporary ban.

Filipino workers from overseas can still return home, and there will be exceptions for emergency cases and diplomats.

Who can travel to the Philippines during the ban?

During the temporary travel ban, only travellers that fit the following criteria can fly to the Philippines:

  • Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)
  • Holders of 9(e) visas
  • Passengers on medical repatriation and their approved escorts
  • Distressed Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs
  • Emergency, humanitarian and other cases approved by the National Task Force for Covid-19

Travellers who do not belong to one of these groups and were due to fly to the Philippines between this Saturday and Monday, April 19, will need to change their travel plans.

Are flights to the Philippines being cancelled?

A cap on traveller numbers at Manila's international airport has also been implemented.

From Saturday, only 1,500 passengers a day will be able to fly into the capital, according to the Philippines's Civil Aeronautics Board.

Emirates confirmed that flights from Dubai to Manila would operate with a reduced capacity until Sunday, April 18.

"Our flights from Dubai to Manila, Clark and Cebu are operating as scheduled however, for flights to Manila, capacity is restricted until Sunday, April 18, subject to review by the authorities. Our outbound flights from the three points in the Philippines remain unaffected," an Emirates representative told The National.

The airline confirmed it could not accommodate all passengers on their original flights, but said it was working "hard to minimise disruption as much as possible."

Etihad is also temporarily restricting the number of passengers able to fly on flights between Abu Dhabi and Manila.

"Following regulations being updated by the Philippines authorities, a further limit on the number of passengers per flight allowed to disembark at Manila International Airport has been applied. As a result, Etihad Airways is temporarily restricting the number of passengers carried between Abu Dhabi and Manila from March 18 until April 18, 2021," an Etihad representative told The National.

The airline is advising passengers due to fly to the Philippines to contact Etihad before travelling to ensure plans are not disrupted.

Philippine Airlines confirmed on its website that a number of international flights to and from Manila will need to be cancelled to comply with the new measures.

The national airline of the Philippines said it would announce flight cancellations for this period once more details are confirmed.

What restrictions are in place in the Philippines?

The new travel restrictions come as the Philippines' Covid-19 case numbers surged to the highest level in seven months this week.

The measures are set to prevent the spread of new coronavirus strains from other countries entering the population.

On Wednesday, March 16, the Philippines had recorded 631,320 coronavirus cases to date. A year since the country first imposed lockdown measures, strict curfews and restrictions remain in place in some areas.

In Metro Manila, one of the worst hit areas, targeted lockdowns, night-time curfews and a stay-at-home order for children are in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Security checkpoints on the borders of the capital and neighbouring provinces continue to operate to deter unwarranted travel amid the pandemic.