STAKEHOLDERS and the Catholic Church in Cebu have taken extra measures as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continues to spread.
Two airlines have canceled their flights to Seoul, Busan and Incheon after the National Government imposed a ban on travel by Filipino tourists to South Korea as it also barred travelers from North Gyeongsang province from entering the Philippines.
Cebu Pacific Air has canceled its Manila, Cebu and Kalibo to Incheon flights from March 3 to April 30, 2020.
Philippine Airlines (PAL), on the other hand, cut back on the number of flights it operates to and from South Korea for March 2020.
PAL, though, will retain a number of flights to and from Seoul and Busan to serve travelers that are not covered by the travel ban.
The Bureau of Immigration ordered a ban on arriving foreign nationals from North Gyeongsang province, Daegu and Cheongdo with the exemption of Filipinos and their spouse or children, foreigners with Permanent Resident Visas (PRV) in the Philippines and members of the diplomatic corps.
It also imposed a ban on departing Filipino passengers except for holders of PRVs, student visas or work visas in South Korea.
For transiting passengers, they are allowed to travel as long as they did not pass through North Gyeongsang, Daegu and Cheongdo.
Both airlines have also started their campaign on domestic tourism as the government focuses its attention on the local market amid the Covid-19 scare.
Earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority said foreign tourism only accounted for P450 billion, or three to four percent, of the gross domestic product in 2018.
The number is comparatively lower than the domestic tourism’s P3.2 trillion in 2018, according to the Philippines Statistics Authority.
Cebu Alliance of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos) president Alice Queblatin said they are already crafting domestic tour packages to offset the effects of the Covid-19.
“We will consolidate the airlines and the hotels into tours to boost the domestic campaign,” she said.
For the summer months, Queblatin said they are hoping to keep the domestic tour packages attractive to cushion the effects of the Covid-19, especially among foreign tourists.
Globally, the viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 86,000 people and registered 2,900 deaths.
The top three countries with the highest number of cases are Mainland China with 2,870 deaths among 79,824 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei; South Korea with 3,526 cases and 17 deaths; and Italy with 1,128 cases and 29 deaths.
There are no new confirmed cases of the Covid-19 in Central Visayas and in the country as of Sunday, March 1.
In its latest Covid-19 tracker, the Department of Health reported that only one of 61 patients under investigation (PUI) is still confined and undergoing treatment in a hospital in the region.
Nationwide, the DOH is monitoring a total of 633 PUIs.
Of the number, 591 have been discharged but are still monitored, while 39 are still confined.
The only three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country — the 38-year-old woman from Wuhan City, 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.
As this developed, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma received a letter from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) instructing priests not to allow the kissing of the venerant cross on Good Friday, April 10.
This was revealed by Msgr. Ruben Labajo of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Balamban town.
Labajo said Palma read the letter and asked priests to follow the CBCP’s instructions during a recent meeting with members of the Priest Veterans Council.
The faithful are instead encouraged to show reverence by either kneeling before or wiping their handkerchiefs on the venerant cross.
During communion, churchgoers are encouraged to receive the sacramental bread by hand.
The faithful are also discouraged from holding hands with fellow churchgoers during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer.
They are also encouraged to bow before each other when extending the sign of peace.
The CBCP, though, has not discouraged the faithful from joining the Way of the Cross, which refers to a series of images depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion and accompanying prayers.
The faithful are also encouraged to continue attending masses. (JOB / WBS WITH AP, JCT)