File photo of Manila airport's Terminal 3. Image Credit: Gulf News File

Dubai: Several Filipinos in the UAE who were supposed to fly to Manila on Sunday will have to wait for the next available flight as all inbound international passenger flights to the Philippines have been temporarily suspended for one week, from May 3 until May 9.

Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes told Gulf News that two special Emirates flight, EK334, were scheduled to fly out of Dubai bound for Manila on May 3 and 6, carrying at least 50 stranded Filipinos whose tickets were paid for by the consulate. There were other paying passengers in the same flight.

In a statement issued on Sunday morning, The Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the airport closure was made by the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) to ramp up the capacity of airports “to properly process the growing number of Filipino repatriates going back to the Philippines daily.”

“This measure to temporarily suspend international passenger arrivals will enable the (Philippine) government to decongest the processing of this number to a more manageable level, given the need to observe strict health protocols, and the fact that existing quarantine facilities are at full capacity,” the DOTr said.

According to DOTr, the Philippine government “has already accommodated around 20,000 repatriates who are quarantined in Metro Manila, with an arrival rate of 2,000 per day.”

“The airport operation suspension will also allow the government’s front line agencies that are tasked to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to upgrade their testing and screening protocols, and expand the existing quarantine and treatment facilities and ensure a more comfortable quarantine arrangement for our repatriated kababayans (compatriots),” the DOTr added.

Meanwhile, a total of 494 Filipinos have been repatriated since the start of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to the Philippines missions in the UAE.