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Duterte proves he is not afraid of nCoV, plans to personally welcome Filipino repatriates from Wuhan on Saturday

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Duterte proves he is not afraid of nCoV, plans to personally welcome Filipino repatriates from Wuhan on Saturday
Image Credit: PCOO

President Duterte will continue to lead by example and show that his governance will not be hindered by the health risks posed by the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory syndrome (2019-nCoV ARD), even expressing his desire to personally receive the initial batch of Filipino repatriates from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the new coronavirus strain— on Saturday.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the Chief Executive wants to join Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in welcoming at least 42 repatriates when they arrive at the Clark International Airport and head straight to the designated quarantine area in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

This is now being discussed by Duterte with the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Nograles said. “The President wants to be there. He’d like to be there on Saturday pero tingnan na muna natin sa PMS and PSG…That’s going to be a debate between the President and the PSG and the PMS.”

The President, Nograles added, is also not heeding the advice to limit his public engagements and even shake hands.

“He (Duterte) just wants to keep on doing the things he’s doing without imposing limitations sa kaniyang movement. He doesn’t want to change the way he conducts his business,” Nograles said.

Duterte earlier said that “there’s nothing really to be extra-scared of that coronavirus thing.”

The Philippines recorded the first 2019-nCoV ARD death outside of China, a 44-year-old Chinese whose 38-year-old companion is now being treated for the disease. A third confirmed case in the country is a 60-year-old woman.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said that as of the afternoon of February 5, there were already 133 PUIs [patients under investigation] for nCoV, 63 of them Filipinos, 54 Chinese and the 16 others of different nationalities. “Of the 133 PUIs, 115 are admitted and isolated while 16 have been discharged under strict monitoring.” 

The DOH, with the help of the police, is now also locating over 300 individuals who had contact with the Chinese fatality and his companion. The two traveled to Dumaguete and Cebu via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights.

Philippines reports third confirmed case of novel coronavirus

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Philippines reports third confirmed case of novel coronavirus
Image Credit: CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) — A 60-year-old Chinese woman has been confirmed as the country’s third case of the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV, the Department of Health said Wednesday.

The Chinese national arrived in Bohol from Wuhan, China via Hong Kong on January 20, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a briefing.

The couple who arrived in the country two weeks ago from Wuhan — the Chinese city at the epicdenter of the 2019-nCoV outbreak — are the Philippines’ first two confirmed cases of infection with the new coronavirus.

One of them, a 44-year-old Chinese man, who along with his partner visited Dumaguete, Cebu and Manila, died from health complications Saturday making him the first 2019-nCoV fatality outside of mainland China.


At least 300 people who had contact with two nCoV patients now being traced by govt

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At least 300 people who had contact with two nCoV patients now being traced by govt
Image Credit: GMA Network

Contact tracing of the people that came in contact with the two Chinese nationals that tested positive for the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) is now one of the top concerns of lawmakers and government officials.

This is because the two patients managed to travel to different places, such as Cebu and Dumaguete, and boarded Cebu Pacific (CEB) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights.

The problem now is that only 17 percent of the at least 300 persons who boarded the same planes with the Chinese patients have been accounted for by the Department of Health (DOH).

Because of this, Duque became the subject of intense grilling during the Senate inquiry on Tuesday afternoon. Senators said there was a failure of leadership on the part of Duque.

The secretary countered by saying he even personally supervised the contact tracing of the people that had contact with 2019-nCoV patients. 

He added that their search was hindered by the airlines’ reluctance to share information, citing the data privacy law. “Airlines are not sharing the contact details of the passengers. They are invoking confidentiality,”

“They’re saying that the airlines are the ones contacting the passengers and informing them and that we’re not given the number,” Duque said. “I’m told that these airlines are invoking the Data Privacy Act, I don’t know how. This is rather strange in a time of urgent situation, I do not understand why this is the case but I think that has to be investigated.”

This was, however, immediately denied by the two airlines.

PAL’s Cielo Villaluna said: ”Philippine Airlines shared contact details of passengers of the concerned flight. We shared it to enable DOH to carry out the callouts and on top of that, PAL carried out callouts.” 

Cebu Pacific, in a statement, said: “Per the request of both the DOH and BOQ, CEB has already provided a list of the passengers aboard both flights. There is no impediment whatsoever for CEB to provide any and all information that the BOH and DOQ would need from us for their purposes.”

But Duque is also looking at possible mishandling by DOH officials. “Heads will roll… Somebody’s head is really going to roll,” Duque said, without giving names.

Reports said the two Chinese patients boarded 5J 241 (Hong Kong-Cebu, January 21), DG 6519 (Cebu-Dumaguete, January 21), and Philippine Airlines’ PR 2542 (Dumaguete to Manila -Jan 25). 

Palace, Chinese-Filipino community ask public not to be swayed by people creating divisiveness amid nCov

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Palace, Chinese-Filipino community ask public not to be swayed by people creating divisiveness amid nCov

The Chinese-Filipino community is feeling the effects of the apparent hate campaign and discrimination against China being propagated by some groups to politicize the novel corona virus acute respiratory syndrome (2019-nCoV ARD) crisis and create divisiveness in the country.

Teresita Ang-See, president of the Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran Inc., said the growing “sinophobia” — and even Chinese bashing — is actually becoming more dangerous than the new coronavirus itself.

This, she said, is because some Filipinos who just happened to be Chinese-looking are also being bullied by their countrymen.

“Mas deadly pa sa coronavirus ang nangyayaring diskriminasyon at sinophobia, iyong Chinese bashing. Papaano kung iyong Pinoy maputi at singkit, kababayan mo pala tapos kung i-bully mo,” Ang-See said.

With this, she instead of the Filipinos standing united in preventing the spread of the 2019-nCoV ARD, the country is being divided by those sowing hatred against the Chinese.

The Chinese-Filipino community had already shown that they are ready to help in the campaign against the coronavirus by donating thousands of face masks on several occasions. 

“It’s very sad. I feel so sad na imbes na sa panahong ito (that instead at this time) we stand as one against this fight, this virus, it’s becoming divisive,” Ang-See earlier said in an interview with ABS-CBN.

She added: “During these times, we can’t have a you-against-me attitude. We are lucky because the virus did not originate from our country.”

Even Malacanang called on the public to be wary of people who are using the issue to saw divisiveness.

“In times like these, it is easy to mislead our fellow Filipinos so we urge the public to stop spreading rumors and goading fears as well as ending the stigma against a specific nationality or race,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said. “There is no room for discrimination and there should be none at all.” 

“This kind of mentioning the Chinese and blaming them, it’s like xenophobia,” Duterte said. “We are a community of nations. We cooperate. China has been kind to us, we can also show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia.”

Over the weekend, some groups tried to politicize the problem by calling for the ouster of President Duterte for not immediately banning the entry of Chinese nationals to the country.

Duterte, upon the advice of the inter-agency task force InterAgency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases (IAT-MEREID), already barred the entry of foreign nationals — not just Chinese— who visits China, Hong Kong or Macau in the last 14 days. 

The President convened the IAT-MEREID anew on Monday night to set new strategies in the campaign against the coronavirus.

Malacanang has also called on different political camps to stop politicizing the crisis. “Let us set aside our individual differences as we ask a moratorium to people who want to hijack this situation and reduce it to mere politicking because lives are at stake,” Andanar said.

The President also urged the public to be calm. 

“You know, this coronavirus is scaring people all over the country. The response of the people from the initial reports of coronavirus was almost hysterical when there was really no need for it actually,” he said. “If there is really a virus going around, why do you have to be hysterical? Why don’t you just go to the hospital and have yourself treated or if you are quarantined, if you suspect that you have acquired.”

PH may ban travelers from all countries with 2019-nCoV cases depending on WHO report

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PH may ban travelers from all countries with 2019-nCoV cases depending on WHO report

The Philippines could impose travel restrictions, not just for people coming from China, but also for all the other countries that reported confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they are now waiting for the risk assessment reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) to determine what actions to take regarding the travel ban.

The initial subject of the restriction, he said, is only Hubei Province in China, the place where the new coronavirus strain originated. But this could extend to the whole of China and other countries.

“We have to look at the numbers also. We have to be careful because some of the numbers might be very few in some cases and there are some countries reporting also, and we might also extend that ban to al the other 14 to 17 countries, so kailangang pag-isipan maigi,” Duque said in an interview with ANC on Friday (January 31).

He said he will convene a meeting among the members of the inter-agency task force that includes the DOH, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism and Department of Transportation, among others.

Duque said extending the coverage of the ban is the direction they are taking, pending the risk assessment report from the WHO. The recommendation approved by President Duterte, he added, already included this possibility of extending the ban to other places.

“That is the direction we are taking. I recommended a temporary restriction of travelers to Manila from Hubei, with the possibility that as soon as we get the risk assessment by the WHO, that many other provinces are in fact reporting increasing numbers of nCoV infection, we will include them in the travel restriction. The President already approved this recommendation,” he said.

This ban, he clarified, is not just for Chinese tourists, but all travelers.

Right now, Duque said the government already put in place a 14-day quarantine procedures for people coming from areas with nCoV cases, and this will include Filipinos that will be repatriated from Hubei.

The WHO has already declared the 2019-nCoV as a global heath emergency, which means all governments are advised to take measures that will prevent the cross-border spread of the novel coronavirus.

In the Philippines, one confirmed case has been reported, with 31 other individuals identified as persons under investigation. 

EDITORIAL: Let’s #PrayForChina, let’s pray for humanity

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Let’s #PrayForChina, let’s pray for humanity

Twitter’s trending topic #PrayForChina since the afternoon of January 31 just showed anew how compassionate and godly the Filipinos are.

Yes, every Filipino is afraid of the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD). Some called for a ban against Chinese nationals. Some even cursed and badmouthed the Chinese. Some even used the issue to call for a change in government via the #OustDuterte. 

But it showed the real character of Filipinos when the hashtag #PrayForChina started to trend. 

One by one, Filipinos are giving their support to the Chinese, instead of condemning them for being the source of the new coronavirus. Several tweets were genuinely expressing their apologies to the Chinese people for blaming them for the spread of the disease. Some recounted stories of how some Chinese people were trying hard not to mingle with Filipinos so as not to create fear of transmitting the disease, even if no one was sure they were infected by it. Some also told tales of how some Filipinos treated some Chinese badly, even at the point of driving them away. But some also shared stories of how the Chinese felt comfortable and safe being here in the Philippines, simply because they know “Filipinos are good people”.

Many skeptics, agnostics and nonbelievers would probably just dismiss #PrayForChina as something that wouldn’t do any good. But it already did its purpose, which is to show to the Chinese that Filipinos as a people, nation and race are supporting—and not condemning—them. It is a big leap for humanity in this time of crisis. 

To quote @nexaaaay: “We should stop blaming the citizens and treat them as if they are the virus themselves. Prevention is okay, but we don’t have to disrespect others in doing so. This is NCov virus not Chinese virus. They are already struggling, let’s not add more burden to them.”

Let us remember that China also helped Filipinos a lot in the past when disaster hit some areas of the country. To name a few, China donated $1.4 worth of relief supplies to the Supertyphoon Yolanda victims; it donated P22 million to help the victims of the earthquakes in Mindanao last year; it gave P10 million for the Batanes quake victims. 

Now, the Philippines may not have the capability to help China in its fight versus the coronavirus. The best that the Filipinos could do, therefore, is to express support and solidarity.

The Philippines is a nation of faithfuls. It is said to be the only Christian country in Asia, and for God-fearing people, there is nothing stronger or more effective than prayers.

Let’s share this strong faith in God to the Chinese people. Let’s #PrayForChina. Let’s pray for humanity.

Filipinos rush to buy face masks while calls for ban on Chinese entry to PH mount after first nCoV case

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Filipinos panicked after hearing the official news from the Department of Health (DOH) of the first confirmed novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) case in the country, with videos proliferating on social media showing long queues of people buying face masks in drugstores.

Also, calls to temporarily ban people traveling from China reverberated, with some again using this development to criticize the Duterte administration for not immediately imposing the travel ban after news of the spread of 2019-nCoV broke out.

In a statement, Senator Ralph Recto said: “I think it is time to put a temporary ‘do not enter’ sign on our doorstep for visitors from China.” The Senate President Pro Tempore added: “Let us explain to them that we are not permanently closing our doors. This is not a permanent Great Wall. This is only during the duration of the coronavirus crisis.”

Senator Risa Hontiveros said the travel ban must firmly include both air and sea travel to prevent a local outbreak. “This includes a temporary ban on all cruise ships from docking at any of our ports.”

Senator Bong Go, President Duterte’s former special assistant, supported the call.

Before this, the DOH said there is still no need to prevent the entry of Chinese to the country, as this may strain the Manila-Beijing diplomatic relations. Now, this pronouncement is being used by Duterte bashers to criticize the government.

On Thursday afternoon (January 30), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III announced that a 38-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan, China has been confirmed to be positive for 2019-nCoV. She arrived in the Philippines via Hongkong on January 21 and admitted in public on January 25 after experiencing a mild cough. The woman did not show other signs of illnesses.

Duque’s announcement read: ”I assure the public that the DOH is on top of this evolving situation. We were able to detect the first confirmed case because of our strong surveillance system, close coordination with the World Health Organization and other national agencies.”

“We are working closely with the hospital where the patient is admitted and have activated the incident command system of the said hospital for appropriate management specifically on infection control, case management and containment. We are also implementing measures to protect the health staff providing care to these patients.”

The DOH is now in the midst of contact tracing to know where the Chinese woman went in the country and who she can in contact with. It has been reported that she went to Cebu and Dumaguete.

Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the DOH spokesman, said she was brought to a hospital in Manila.

Just an hour after the DOH confirmation of the first 2019-nCoV case here, Filipinos started lining up in drugstores to buy face masks. This was shown in videos posted on Twitter by Raffy Tima and Miranda de Quiros taken in Manila and Quezon City, respectively.

Govt sets in motion repatriation, quarantine procedures for Filipinos in Hubei, China

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Govt sets in motion repatriation, quarantine procedures for Filipinos in Hubei, China

The Philippine government on Tuesday night (January 28) announced that it has put on standby two charter planes so Filipinos in Hubei Province — the source of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)—can be repatriated immediately should they wish to come home.

This was upon the instruction of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., according to DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Brigido J. Dulay.

In a tweet at 9:34 p.m. on Tuesday, Dulay said :

This action followed a meeting between the DFA and the Department of Health (DOH) on what actions the government needs to take to safeguard Filipinos from the spread of the deadly 2019-nCoV, which originated in Wuhan, a city in the Chinese province of Hubei.

Around 150 Filipinos are currently in Wuhan, according to Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana. These Filipinos are now in distress as they are already running out of water and food supplies due to the lockdown implemented by the Chinese government in the area.

Should they decide to come home, Dulay said they will be immediately placed under quarantine, per the agreement between the DOH and DFA.

Reports said the 2019-nCoV has already claimed the lives of more than 100 people. The new strain of coronavirus has also reached several countries, including the US, Thailand, Japan and Taiwan.

The DOH said while 24 individuals are now being tested for possible 2019-nCoV infection in the Philippines, the country is still officially free from the disease as of now.

As another measure to protect the country from the new coronavirus, the Bureau of Immigration has already suspended the no-visa entry for Chinese nationals.

Several Chinese schools in Manila have also suspended classes to make sure those who travelled to China in celebration of the Chinese New Year will not mingle with other students.

Twitter’s trending topic ‘Grabe January’ saw Filipinos including Kobe’s death in global tragic events this month

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Twitter’s trending topic ‘Grabe January’ saw Filipinos including Kobe’s death in global tragic events this month

Just like the rest of the world, Filipinos mourned the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, regarding the fatal helicopter crash as one of global tragic events that made January 2020 a month that made a lot of people suffer.

NASA Astronaut Christina Hammock Koch posted an image of the ash-covered Taal Volcano as seen from the International Space Station.

In the Twitter trending topic “Grabe January”, Filipinos listed down what they believe as the events that already caused grief and sufferings right at the first month of the year.

Included on the list are the Australia bush fire and other wildfires, the rise of the deadly novel coronavirus (or 2019-nCoV), the Iran-US tussle, the eruption of Taal Volcano, the numerous earthquakes, and the death of the player known globally as Black Mamba. Avid followers of James Reid and Nadine Lustre also included the JaDine breakup on the list.

Filipinos vented their frustration over what they said as “very long” and bad start for the year in the topic ‘Grabe January’ on Monday (January 27).

Filipinos love Kobe Bryant, 41, especially since they had close encounters with him on numerous occasions.

Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday along with daughter Gianna and several others, had at least six official visits to the Philippines during his National Basketball Association (NBA) career. His first visit was in August 1998 and wowed the fans at the old Araneta Coliseum with his awesome dunks. He returned in September 2007, July 2009, July 2011, August 2013, and June 2016.

Gianna Bryant and her father, former NBA player Kobe Bryant, attend the WNBA All-Star Game 2019 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas in July. Both were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas. 
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the premier professional basketball league in the Philippines, expressed its grief and gave tribute to the Black Mamba in a statement.

PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial, in a statement, said:

“The PBA has lost a dear friend in Kobe Bryant who leaves behind fond memories of seven unforgettable visits to our country. Kobe was an exceptional basketball player but beyond his athletic skills, he was known for his caring heart and love of family. His life was an inspiration and a lesson to everyone that with hard work, dedication, and self-sacrifice, nothing is impossible. At 41, Kobe is gone too soon but his legacy will last forever. The PBA mourns the passage of a man who has touched the lives of millions.  Rest in peace, Kobe.”

Kobe, in one of his visits to the Philippines, also played alongside other NBA stars in a game versus the Philippine national team that was preparing for the FIBA Asia Qualifiers.

EDITORIAL: DOH should be lauded for immediately treating 2019-nCoV a public health emergency

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DOH should be lauded for immediately treating 2019-nCoV a public health emergency
Image Credit: Tabloid PH

The pronouncement of the Department of Health (DOH) that the government is already treating the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) as a public health emergency even if no domestic case has been confirmed yet as of January 24 is indeed laudable.

This only shows that the DOH is now ready to take proactive measures to make sure the new coronavirus strain that originated from Wuhan will not reach Philippine shores; or if it is already here, it would not infect more Filipinos.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said it well in an interview with ANC: “We are treating it as a public health emergency. We want to make sure that if it does get here, we are able to contain it, isolate it.”

Declaring a public health emergency allows the DOH and other concerned agencies to tap the necessary resources to make sure proper actions and measures will be in place to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV.  In the United States, where there is a confirmed 2019-nCoV case already, a public health emergency declaration releases resources meant to handle an actual or potential public health crisis.

Why is this important? We all know how unscrupulous traders took advantage of the ash fall that reached Metro Manila after the phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano last January 12. Due to the sudden spike in demand for face masks, some establishments reportedly raised the prices of their N95 and surgical masks, prompting the DOH and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to implement a price freeze and conduct operations against erring retailers and suppliers.

With the 2019-nCoV feared to be communicable, face masks would again be in demand. With the declaration of a public health emergency, authorities will be able to guard the public against overpricing and hoarding of N95 and other face masks again.

This is just an example. Of course, there are many other things that the government needs to do to shield Filipinos from this new strain of coronavirus. Some measures would certainly entail more budget, so the DOH and other concerned agencies should not be hindered by bureaucratic red tape in getting needed funds. 

In China, for instance, the Chinese government has started building a new 1,000-bed hospital in Wuhan solely for coronavirus patients. The Philippine government, of course, does not need to do this also for now. However, interventions of a smaller magnitude—but would entail additional funding—need to be undertaken also as proactive measures. Ensuring adequate medicines and facilities for 2019-nCoV patients are examples. At the ports of entry, the quarantine personnel, as well as their testing capabilities, should be enhanced. Authorities should also prepare to dedicate experts and resources for the isolation of people suspected as being infected by the deadly virus.

The DOH is still waiting for the result of the confirmatory test on a five-year-old Chinese who arrived in sick in Cebu from Wuhan. Also, a 36-year-old Filipino worker in Wuhan just came homesick and is now in a hospital in Tacloban. 

While there is no confirmation yet that the 2019-nCoV is already here in the Philippines, it is indeed a positive signal that the DOH has declared that it already considers the spread of the new coronavirus strain as a public health emergency. Caution and preparedness are paramount in situations like this. As the saying goes—better safe than sorry.

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