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wuhan virus

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). 

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

in Editorial/News/Tabloid PH News
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.

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.

Duque: Manila awaits advice from WHO on need to impose travel restrictions vs Chinese nationals

in News/Tabloid PH News
Duque: Manila awaits advice from WHO on need to impose travel restrictions vs Chinese nationals
Image Credit: Marianne Bermudez/Inquirer

The Philippines would not jump the gun and restrict the travel of Chinese nationals into the country this early to help contain the spread of a new strain of the deadly coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said they would still wait for official word from the World Health Organization (WHO) if there is a need to impose travel restrictions, especially with the coming Chinese New Year when more tourists from China are expected.

Interviewed over radio station DZBB on Wednesday (January 22), Duque said: “‘Yung usapin po na travel restriction ay pinag-iisipan na po ‘yan, pinag-uusapan nang malaliman ng WHO kasi kinakailangan kung magkakaroon ng travel restriction, ang mangunguna na dapat magsagawa nito ay ang China mismo… Sila mismo ang pipigil sa kanilang mga mamamayan sa pagbiyahe palabas ng China.”

The Philippines has placed under observation a five-year-old Chinese who arrived sick in Cebu from Wuhan recently. Health officials are determining if it was another case of the new coronavirus strain.

Duque said the situation is “very fluid” at this time. “Maghihintay tayo ng malinaw na gabay o guidelines mula sa World Health Organization na sila naman ang oras-oras na nakikipag-ugnayan sa Chinese Center for Disease Control at saka sa Chinese Ministry of Health.” 

The Philippines is receiving plenty of Chinese visitors, not just for tourism and leisure, but also work-related, as Chinese nationals man numerous offshore gaming hubs in the country. 

The Department of Tourism reported that in the first 10 months of 2019, a total of 1,499,524 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines, 41.13 higher compared to the same period in 2018.

Chinese nationals are expected to travel to different locations for the Chinese New Year (January 25) holidays.

In the meantime, Duque advised Filipinos to avoid crowded places, wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing, and to strengthen their immune system.

The DOH is also prepared for the possible widespread use of N95 masks once the situation requires it.

“Of course, makakatulong ‘yan (N95 masks) pero sa ngayon, hindi pa naman natin kinakailangan pa dahil wala pa namang abiso ang World Health Organization… Pero handa naman tayo na dapat maging available ang N95 masks para mapigilan ang paglanghap nag contaminated na hangin,” he said.

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