More patients under watch

Credit to Author: John Eric Mendoza| Date: Tue, 28 Jan 2020 16:43:31 +0000

The number of suspected 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases in the Philippines continues to rise, the Department of Health admitted on Tuesday as it announced that 24 suspected carriers of the virus are being monitored.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd. Photo by: J. Gerard Seguia

This was more than double the 11 suspected nCoV cases announced on Monday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd gave assurances that there was no confirmed case of the deadly virus in the Philippines, even as officials took additional steps to prevent the entry and possible spread of the virus.

Health officials said in a news briefing on Tuesday that 22 patients were being observed nationwide — 13 in Metro Manila, three each in Western and Central Visayas, and one case each in Region 4-B or Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao. There were 27 cases previously, but three patients had been discharged from the hospital.

But hours later, it was learned that two new cases were added for a total of 24.

Duque implored the public to remain vigilant and protect themselves from acquiring the virus.

“Let us continue practicing good hand hygiene, observing proper cough etiquette, maintaining distance from people manifesting flu-like symptoms, cooking food properly and adopting a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

The Health department is waiting for the test results for 13 suspected carriers, whose throat swabs had been sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.

The new virus had so far killed 106 people.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Immigration temporarily suspended its visa upon arrival (VUA) program as part of the government’s preventive measures against the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said he ordered the suspension of the VUA, which is usually availed of by Chinese tour groups visiting the Philippines.

“The Civil Aeronautics Board has already suspended direct flights from Wuhan province,” Morente said. “We are now temporarily suspending the issuance of VUA for Chinese… to slow down the influx of group tours.”

More cases

While a host of nations prepared to airlift their citizens from the epicenter of the epidemic, Japan and Germany reported the first cases that were not directly imported from China.

Until now, all cases in more than a dozen countries involved people who had been in or around Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged in late December before infecting thousands of people nationwide.

In Japan, a man in his 60s contracted the virus apparently after driving two groups of tourists from Wuhan earlier in January, the health ministry said. He was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms on Saturday.

On the other side of the world, a 33-year-old German man caught the disease from a Chinese colleague from Shanghai who visited Germany last week, according to health officials.

The development came after countries, including Sri Lanka, Malaysia and the Philippines, announced tighter visa restrictions for people coming from China.

Hong Kong, which has eight reported cases of the severe acute respiratory syndrome-like disease, announced the sealing of six of its 14 border crossings to the mainland from Thursday.

Singapore, with seven confirmed cases of the virus, has announced it would ban visitors who have traveled to Hubei, as well as those with passports issued in that Chinese province.

Mongolia has taken a much more drastic line, closing its entire border with China to pedestrians and cars as well as ordering schools to close. It has no reported cases.

In Russia’s far-eastern district, which shares some 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) of frontier with China, crossings that should have reopened after Chinese New Year will stay closed for days or weeks.

Thailand announced that all passengers flying in from Chinese airports are undergoing screening, as the number of confirmed infections hit 14 on Tuesday — the highest outside of China.

The outbreak is sending shock waves through Asia’s tourism industry, which has become increasingly reliant on growing numbers of Chinese visitors.

The measures come amid a boom in Chinese foreign travel, with the number of tourists from the country increasing nearly tenfold since 2003, according to a report by research firm Capital Economics.

China has already imposed wide-ranging travel restrictions across the country and halted international tours, but on Tuesday called for all overseas travel to be postponed.

From Wednesday, Hong Kong public facilities ranging from pools and sports centers to museums will all be closed.

Authorities say the restrictions have one primary purpose: “avoid people gathering.”