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The government may have to “temporarily forego” profits from South Korean visitors — the Philippines’ largest tourist market — amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) scare.

Senator Imee Marcos stressed this on Wednesday as she urged the government to immediately formulate measures that to effectively combat the spread of COVID-19.

The senator from Ilocos Norte made the appeal on Wednesday amid a sudden outbreak of Covid-19 cases in South Korea.

She said the government must “make the hard choice of imposing a quarantine on flight passengers from Korea, where a maximum virus alert level for COVID-19 was announced [on] Sunday.”

Quoting a report from the Korean Herald, Marcos said that about 24 countries have already decided on a travel ban or strict quarantine measures on visitors from South Korea.

An estimated two million South Koreans visited the Philippines in 2019 — flying from Seoul, Busan, Cheongju, Daegu, Gimpo, Jeju, and Muan.

“Nakatutok ang gobyerno sa pag-quarantine ng mga Pinoy crew ng Diamond Princess na kagagaling lang ng Japan, pero mukhang nadededma ang mga turistang nakakapasok pa rin galing Korea,” Marcos said.

Marcos said that a direct flight from Daegu, where 791 of South Korea’s 977 cases of infection, recently landed in Cebu before 11 p.m.

She said that “direct flights from Busan airport, only 85 kilometers (kms) southeast of Daegu airport, have also been landing in Manila, Cebu, Clark, and Kalibo airports and were still being sold online by Air Asia, Air Busan, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Pan Pacific Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and T’way Air.”

“Nag-warning na ang WHO (World Health Organization) sa mga developing countries na ang kahinaan ng kanilang mga health care system ay magigiing sanhi ng paglaganap ng COVID-19.

“Ang pagiging maagap ang ating best defense,” said Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.

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