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As DOH confirms first nCov case in Pinas: 5 Chinese, 3 Filipinos monitored

As the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in the country, health authorities here are monitoring eight persons who voluntarily submitted themselves after experiencing symptoms.

Gene Gulanes, City Health Office (CHO) officer in charge, said the seven were found negative in the initial test but are still monitored in case their symptoms will worsen.

The other one, meanwhile, is considered as person under investigation (PUI) and a close monitoring has been imposed.

Gulanes said the individuals who underwent testing were five Chinese national and three Filipinos.

In the PUI case, the Chinese national arrived in the city on Jan. 27. The foreigner experienced symptoms that include cough and fever, and authorities are currently conducting further investigation on his case.

As of now, Gulanes said the PUI case is clear from its symptoms.

“But it does not mean we should let our PUI case go. The Chinese national had experienced the possible symptoms, so we really have surveillance every now and then,” he told reporters during yesterday’s ISPEAK media forum at City Hall.

The seven others, Gulanes said, are already “quarantined.”

“We made sure that they are monitored and they are under surveillance,” he said.

On Jan. 24, a Chinese national who arrived in the city was the first to have the test.

The next day, a Filipino who traveled in Thailand, also submitted himself.

On Jan. 29, a 41-year old Filipino from Beijing, China and underwent the same testing.

Also on that day, a family from China – a mother and her two children – and a Filipina helper also submitted themselves to the test.

He said a 14-day home quarantine is imposed on the eight subjects to ensure that they have not manifested the deadly virus.

Gulanes said the health team assigned to monitor high-risk cases is “on the move.”

“Let us just be vigilant even without the confirmed cases in the city,” he said.

The health official said that wearing of masks, at least in the city, is not yet compulsory.

“It’s okay to wear masks, but as of now it is applicable to those who have common sickness like colds or cough,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gulanes said there is still no advisory for a travel ban in the city.

“As of now, as the president also said, the banning of flights from China is still not necessary. All we are doing right now is strengthening our quarantine and security measures for any cases in the city,” he said.

Suspended

The Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) is temporarily suspending entry of “group tour travels of mainland Chinese and other Asian nationals to our city” effective Jan. 30 as a “pro-active measure to protect our people from exposure to the much-dreaded” 2019 novel Coronavirus (n-CoV).

Samal is the first Philippine city imposing a travel restriction in relation to the n-CoV.

The advisory on suspension was posted on the Facebook page of Samal Island Information, the official page of IGaCoS Public Information Section.

The advisory said the temporary suspension was coordinated with the Department of Tourism.

“While we are promoting our city for tourism,” it said, “the safety of our people is foremost,” the advisory said.

It requested partners “especially the tour operators and agencies and all other stakeholders to support the local government in this endeavor to ensure the safety of everyone.”

Samal information officer Michael Homez told MindaNews that the suspension is based on a verbal order of the mayor but the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) “will have an emergency meeting on Friday to ask the Sangguniang Panglungsod for a resolution.”

He said the mayor issued the order on Wednesday following reports that 79 tourists from mainland China arrived in Davao City. He said the nearest resort to Davao City is Samal, which is just a 10-minute boat ride across, so there is a big possibility they would go to Samal.

Homez said the mayor was afraid for his constituents especially since the n-CoV has no cure as yet.

“Prevention is better than cure, as they say,” Homez said, adding that the city government has taken into consideration the economic losses from this move.

Homez said several resort owners called him about the negative impact that the order would bring but he told them the mayor explained that he was after the general welfare of his constituents and would rather suffer losses from the potential tourists than sacrifice the lives of the residents. The island city has a population of 104,123 residents as of the 2015 survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Homez also said the island has no quarantine facilities and although it has hospital facilities, they are not equipped to handle n-CoV cases.

Homez said the mayor, who is presently in Manila, wants the city to buy infrared thermal cameras or heat detecting guns, also known as temperature guns at the three ports of Samal – Babak, Camp Holiday and Kaputian to determine who is febrile among the arriving passengers.

Chinese Consul-General Li earlier told MindaNews their government asked Chinese travel agencies to suspend group tours for the Jinjiang-Davao air route, which started operating in late 2018. The request does not cover individual travels, he added.

Li said some staff members of the Chinese Consulate General’s office in Davao vacationing in China due to the Spring Festival holiday have been advised to avoid visiting the areas most affected by the coronavirus before returning here.

As part also of the precautionary measures to curb the spread of the virus here, Li said individual passengers have been required to have their body temperatures taken before boarding the plane and were also advised to wear protective masks.

The air route between the cities of Jinjiang and Davao is being served by Chinese airline XiamenAir twice a week.

The Philippines’ Department of Health has not imposed a ban on the entry of mainland Chinese.

At the Question Hour of the House of Representatives on Thursday, Iloilo Rep. Loren Legarda asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque if he was recommending a travel restriction on the mainland Chinese.

“That’s one of the possible options,” Duque said but “not at this very moment” because “we have to be very careful also about the possible repercussions of doing this.”

He said confirmed n-CoV cases are “not limited to China” and if a ban were imposed imposed, China might ask why they are not imposing the same on the other countries with confirmed cases.

Legarda said she was aware of political and diplomatic repercussions but of paramount interest here is “the health of the Filipino people.”

Yesterday, Sec. Francisco Duque III confirmed a 38-year-old Chinese female is the first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in the country.

Duque said the laboratory results of the patient arrived on Thursday from the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia.

“The confirmed case arrived in the Philippines from Wuhan, China via Hong Kong last Jan. 21, 2020. The patient sought to consult and was admitted to one of the country’s government hospitals last January 25 after experiencing mild cough,” Duque added.

Duque reported that the patient is “currently asymptomatic with no fever and no signs and symptoms of any illness.”

Citing that the first nCov case in the country has been detected because of the Department of Health (DOH)’s strong surveillance, Duque assured the public that DOH is on top of the situation and is in close coordination with the other government agencies and the World Health Organization.

“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 infection control, case management, and containment. We’re also implementing measures to protect health staff providing care to those patients,” he added.

To date, the DOH has recorded a total of 29 persons under investigation (PUIs) – 18 in Metro Manila, four in Central Visayas, one in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), one in Eastern Visayas, one in Northern Mindanao, and one in Davao.

Of the total number, 23 PUIs are currently admitted, five have been discharged but are still under strict monitoring and one mortality. (with reports from MindaNews and PNA)

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