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

in News/Tabloid PH News
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

in News/Tabloid PH News
Palace, Chinese-Filipino community ask public not to be swayed by people creating divisiveness amid nCov
ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

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.”

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

in News/Tabloid PH News

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.

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

in News/Tabloid PH News
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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