All air passengers travelling to China from the Philippines , including Chinese nationals , will be required from next Thursday to submit proof they do not have Covid-19 before boarding their flight, according to the Chinese embassy in Manila. The move was announced on the embassy’s Facebook page on Tuesday amid concerns that a number of Chinese employees of Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) – which are locally based but cater to gamblers in China – have tested positive for the novel coronavirus after returning to their home country. A Chinese crime wave hits Duterte’s Philippines as Pogos grow unchecked It puts the Philippines in the company of countries such as Russia , Egypt , Iran , Pakistan , Bangladesh , Saudi Arabia and Thailand . Travellers from those countries must already produce a so-called Covid-19 negative certificate, obtained within five days of departure, to board any China-bound flight. Other countries alongside the Philippines that will be subject to the stipulation from August 20 include Malaysia , Cambodia and Mauritania. In a statement on its website, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the certificates were required “to ensure the health and safety of international travel and reduce the risk of cross-border spread”, adding that the requirement also applies to passengers “ultimately bound for China” who transfer via the named countries. Despite the wide-ranging nature of the directive, which also applies to a number of other countries and “will be adjusted as necessary” according to the ministry, there are suspicions the Philippines made the list because of Pogo employees. Philippines’ push for Pogos to reopen amid lockdown faces backlash In a virtual round table on July 27 attended by Huang Xilian, the Chinese ambassador to Manila, prominent ethnic Chinese activist Teresita Ang-See asked about the “many returnees from Manila to China” who had “tested positive upon arrival”. She specifically wanted to know about “Pogo workers” and whether China could “contact trace where they come from” so local governments in the Philippines could take action – referring to rumours about four Chinese nationals living in a building in Makati who allegedly “all tested positive” upon their return to Fujian province. “Is this true? And if so, is the Chinese government, because they are very, very good and very efficient in tracing the contacts of these people … [informing] our local governments where these returning Chinese came from?” she asked. Her question was not met with a response. Beijing’s directive requiring health certification does not appear to apply to most ordinary Filipinos. According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, only diplomats and those granted visas on a case-by-case basis are allowed into China. The Philippines too “remains off-limits to foreign tourists”, immigration official Grifton Medina said on August 7, although exceptions are made for holders of permanent immigrant visas and the dependents and spouses of Philippine nationals. It was unclear how many Pogo employees hold such visas, or indeed how many of them there are in total. Industry regulator Pagcor – the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – puts the number at 93,697 but other estimates range as high as 800,000. Those holding permanent visas have been allowed to come and go as they please, if they could find a flight – even at the height of Metro Manila’s coronavirus lockdown in mid-March. President Rodrigo Duterte said it was “xenophobic” to suggest Chinese nationals should be barred from entering the country. It is not known how many Chinese Pogo workers have been infected because the Department of Health no longer releases data based on nationality. Since May, the police have raided at least four secret clinics catering to Pogo employees. In addition to the Covid-19 “negative certificates” that China-bound travellers from the Philippines must produce from next week, each passenger must also obtain a certified “health declaration form” from the Chinese embassy in Manila or the consulates-general in the cities of Cebu, Davao and Laoag, the embassy said on Tuesday. These forms require passengers to certify that in the 14 days before boarding their flight, they have not come into contact with “suspected or confirmed” Covid-19 patients and have taken protective measures such as wearing a mask while visiting “public spaces like hospitals, theatres, restaurants and leisure facilities” and while taking part in group activities. This last requirement could prove especially difficult for those based in Metro Manila, where most Pogo providers operate, as more than 27 million people in the national capital region have been under strict stay-at-home orders since last week . As of Wednesday, the Philippines had reported more than 143,000 coronavirus infections – the highest tally in Southeast Asia after Indonesia – with more than 2,400 deaths.