MANILA: The Philippines halted all inbound passenger flights for a week starting Sunday to free up space in quarantine centres filled with thousands of migrant workers who have come home during the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of Filipinos work abroad, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Singapore and Qatar among the most popular destinations.
Some 24,000 have already returned home, many after losing their jobs as the global economy screeches to a halt because of the virus.
Those returning are required to complete a 14-day quarantine at centres built or re-purposed by the government that are now filled to capacity.
"The new flight restriction... will be implemented for one week to give the government the opportunity to decongest the quarantine facilities in Metro Manila," government official Carlito Galvez said in a statement.
The announcement effectively suspends the repatriation programme for workers affected by the pandemic, and the government has told them to stay in their host countries for now.
However, outbound flights will be allowed to continue, including those flying stranded foreigners out of the country.
The Philippines has converted several convention centres, ships, hotels, and government facilities into quarantine centres as the number of people infected with the coronavirus has risen.
As of Sunday the country had reported over 9,200 cases and 607 deaths, though due to a limited testing capacity the numbers are thought to be higher.