EVEN with the lifting of the temporary travel ban to and from Taiwan on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020, it may still take some time for operations at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to normalize.
“It’s not that easy to resume canceled flights since affected passengers have already altered their travel plans and airlines, generally, need time to book reservations for their flights,” said Steve Dicdican, MCIA Authority general manager and chief executive officer, in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Saturday, Feb. 15.
However, he expects all Taiwan routes prior to the travel ban to resume. He said they originally had 49 weekly flights to and from Taiwan.
“Fortunately, our Taiwan market is growing and we will be adding to the number of flights within the year,” he said.
In a related development, Terence Anthony Bermejo, Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) - Cebu chief, said Filipinos from Taiwan who were placed in a quarantine before the ban was lifted have gone home.
“We’ve released all of them. There was no need for them to be placed in a quarantine facility or home quarantine because the ban has been lifted. That would be moot,” he said in Cebuano.
Bermejo said the same safety measures and quarantine protocols apply at the MCIA and seaports in the province for Filipinos arriving from China and its special administrative regions like Hong Kong and Macau.
Filipino passengers from these place will have to be placed either in home or facility quarantine.
Thermal screening and health declaration checklists are also still being done and distributed in airports, he added.
In Mandaue City, Rose Marie Tirado, city health office chief, said they will still have to come up with a list by Monday, Feb. 17, of Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) who will be released after the travel ban to Taiwan was lifted.
She told SunStar Cebu they need to strengthen their information dissemination as some landlords and condominium managers reportedly have not allowed PUMs to enter their premises for fear the PUMs would cause panic among other unit owners.
She clarified that PUMs are those who recently traveled to mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong or had contact with persons positive of the 2019 novel coronavirus (Covid-19) but do not manifest the symptoms of the virus.
Malacañang confirmed the lifting of the travel ban to and from Taiwan on Feb. 14 after the Department of Health announced last Monday, Feb. 10, that the temporary travel restriction to and from China included Taiwan.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, in a statement, said members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease agreed to lift the ban because measures to prevent Covid-19 are already being implemented.
Taiwan is the fifth largest tourist market in the region.
In 2018, Central Visayas welcomed 84,750 Taiwanese tourists, up 18.14 percent from the 71,739 Taiwanese recorded in 2017, based on figures obtained from the Department of Tourism.
As of 10 a.m. on Feb. 15, the DOH was monitoring 487 patients under investigation nationwide. Of the number, 330 had been discharged but are still being monitored, while 154 are still confined and undergoing treatment.
The only three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country – the 38-year-old woman from Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China; her 44-year-old male partner who died; and the 60-year-old Chinese woman who already returned to China – were included in the tally.
Cebu Pacific and the Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Feb. 14 announced the resumption of their flights between Manila and Taipei.
Airlines flying from Cebu to Taiwan have yet to give flight updates.
In an advisory, AirAsia, which operates direct flights from Cebu to the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung, said it will soon update their passengers on “any changes to flights given the recent developments.”
AirAsia said it is closely monitoring the situation and may announce further policies.
Tigerair Taiwan, which also flies direct to Taiwan from Cebu, said those who were affected by the short-lived ban could ask for a refund for their canceled flights.
Meanwhile, Eva Air said its passengers may apply for rebooking and refund on or before Feb. 25.
The carrier is urging its guests to subscribe to its SMS service to get updated on flight developments. / WBS / CSL WITH A REPORT FROM KFD