27 suspected cases watched

January 28, 2020
Personnel at the NAIA Terminal 1 tightened their watch on travellers following the DOH reports that patients under observation are Chinese who came from Wuhan, China. Photo of courtesy: ABS-CBN News

THE number of suspected novel coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 27, the Department of Health said in a press conference.

The DOH said all of the patients under observation are Chinese who came from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

So far the Philippines remains novel coronavirus-free, health officials said.

“Still, there are no confirmed cases of the novel coranavirus (2019nCoV) in the country,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told reporters.

There are no Filipinos under observation, he said.

The death toll from the virus has breached 100 and the number of people infected has reached over 4,000 across the globe.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization.

Visa upon arrival

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday confirmed that the visa upon arrival (VUA) program was suspended by the Bureau of Immigration in light of the  Wuhan coronavirus outbreak.

But the BI -- an attached agency of the Department of Justice -- stressed that “there is no order barring Chinese travelers from entering the country.”

The VUA program allows Chinese tourists to apply for visa upon arrival in the country, instead of applying beforehand at the Philippine embassy and consulates in China.

First implemented during the time of former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II in 2017, the move was initiated by the tourism department to lure more Chinese tourists and investors.

Aside from Chinese tourists, other nationals are qualified for the program if they are foreign investors endorsed by relevant organizations, delegates to sports competitions and international conventions and officials of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and other development partners of the Philippines.

VUA to Chinese tourists are effective for three months, but extendible by another three months, bringing maximum stay to 6 months.

However, the government recently announced that it would implement stricter rules on the issuance of VUA following reports on the influx of illegal Chinese workers in the Philippines.

Lawmakers called on government agencies concerned to take steps to protect the Filipinos against the deadly coronavirus from China and help stop the spread of the virus.

ACT-CIS Rep. Eric Go Yap urged the Philippine Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) to be more strict in allowing Chinese to work in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operation (POGO) industry.

Earlier, PAGCOR ordered all POGOs and service providers to impose a one-day quarantine on all newly-hired and returning employees from countries with reported cases of the 2019 n-COV.

Yap also asked the POGO operators and service providers to issue a moratorium on hiring new employees coming from overseas as long as there is a threat from the virus.

“Mas prayoridad natin ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan. Aanhin pa natin ang kikitain ng bansa mula as POGOs kung magkakaroon ng coronavirus outbreak sa bansa. Iniiwasan na may mkapasok sa bansa na dala ng virus na ito,” Yap said.

“Bilang chairperson ng committee on games and amusements, ating hinihikayat ang PAGCOR na mag issue ng moratorium sa pagtanggap ng POGOs at service  providers ng mga bagong empleyado mula sa ibang bansa, lalo mula sa China,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ang Probinsiyano party-list Rep. Ronnie Ong cautioned the DOH against issuing public pronouncements related to unverified cases of the dreaded novel corona virus.

According to Ong, the DOH may be unnecessarily stirring public fears by issuing statements related to suspected corona virus cases without completing all the needed confirmatory tests.

“I really hope the DoH would be more circumspect about making premature pronouncements related to this dreaded respiratory disease. I suggest that before making any public pronouncement on matters related to the coronavirus, it should first conduct all the needed tests,” Ong said.

For her part, Deputy Minority Leader Janette Garin said wearing ordinary mask will not give protection against the virus.

“If it’s the ordinary mask, won’t really help. If they are sick and avoid spreading to others, will be good. But let us not forget that what is important is proper hygiene, and frequent handwashing.  Used mask should be disposed of properly.

Beware of fake news

Justice Secretary Guevarra called on the public to get virus updates from health officials only.

Guevarra issued the statement after noting the proliferation of “fake news” circulating in social media regarding the supposed spread of the 2019-novel coronavirus (nCov) in the country.

“The problem is we don’t really know if these news sprouting everywhere about the corona virus are fake,” he pointed out.

“The best approach, I think, should be to tell the people to listen to and rely instead on information being released by our health officials,” he stressed.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also cautioned the public against the spread of fake news concerning nCov.

“This misinformation can be more viral than the virus that we all are guarding against,” Duque had said.

“This is an ‘infodemic’ and we don’t want to be party to its spread,” he added.

With Jester P. Manalastas