Pinoys in Wuhan safe – PH embassy

January 27, 2020

NONE of the 150 Filipinos in Wuhan has been infected by the 2019 coronavirus (2019 nCoV), the Philippine Embassy in Beijing said.

“(There’s) no report of any Filipino in Wuhan infected by the novel coronavirus thus far. But they are advised to stay indoors and avoid contact with an infected person,” Philippine Ambassador Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said on Sunday night.

Wuhan, the place where the 2019-nCoV originated was locked down in an effort to prevent the spread to neighboring places of the deadly disease that has killed more than 50 and infected 1,370 others. 

The DFA issued an advisory telling Filipinos to take the necessary precautions to avoid being infected by the disease.

Filipinos were told to follow the advice from local health authorities in their areas.

The Philippine Consulate in Shanghai has requested Filipino community leaders to provide them assistance, especially to tourists or those on short-time visits as it monitors the outbreak.

Filipinos in Hong Kong were urged to cooperate with the  administrative region, as it raised its response level to the highest “Emergency Response Level”.

In an advisory, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said Filipinos who will require assistance from the Consulate may call its hotline at (+852) 9155 4023.

In Manila, the DFA held an emergency meeting  yesterday to discuss strategies to properly respond to the health emergency.

The cut in the funds for the disease surveillance program of the Department of Health (DOH) will affect the monitoring of coronavirus, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said as she noted that for 2020 the DOH budget for the particular program was slashed by at least 56 percent.

From the original P263 million in 2019, this year’s budget for disease surveillance is only P115.5 million.

Brosas said the fund cut has reduced DOH’s capability to screen potential coronavirus carriers.

The DOH reported that 11 foreigners across the country are being monitored for possible Wuhan coronavirus infection.  

The Gabriela lawmaker further lamented that this budget for disease surveillance is dwarfed by the allocation for privatized healthcare under the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which has a budget of P71.35 billion.

DFA meets with DOH

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) yesterday met with health experts to discuss protocols on evacuation and repatriation in the event such actions are needed for Filipinos in Wuhan City and other affected cities and provinces.

Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya led the emergency meeting with the health experts and officials of the DOH.

In the meeting, officials discussed strategies on properly responding to the health emergency brought about by the novel coronavirus outbreak in China and other countries.

The DFA also sought DOH’s guidance on the establishment of protocols on evacuation and repatriation of Filipinos in Wuhan City and other affected cities and provinces, as well as formulation of further health advisories for overseas Filipinos in affected countries, including DOH hotlines in every Foreign Service Post in China that they can directly call.

Health Undersecretary for Public Health Services Myrna Cabotaje advised overseas Filipinos in affected areas to avoid crowded places, use mask and gloves, and practice proper hygiene in order to reduce exposure to and transmission of said virus.

Flights from Wuhan

A congressman on Monday said government agencies concerned should have not allowed flights from Wuhan, China to land in the country despite the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Chinese city.

While there has been no confirmed 2019 novel coronavirus case in the Philippines according to the World Health Organization (WHO), Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence Fortun said authorities must be able to impose the strictest protocols amid the threat of the virus, which had claimed the lives of at least 80 people in China and infected others in many countries.  

“Why were we still allowing flights from Wuhan to land in the Philippines in the first place? Why did we have to wait for their announcement of lockdown before deciding to prohibit entry of flights coming from a place already confirmed to be the epicenter of the outbreak of a fatal virus that has turned epidemic?” Fortun asked.

“And now, we have to send at least 500 travelers back? And that is not even a decision reached by our authorities, but the airlines?” he added.

PNP mission

After ensuring there would be “zero casualty” during the violent activities of Taal Volcano over the past two weeks, the Philippine National Police is now embarking on yet another mission, which is to help the government address threats posed by a SARS-like virus from China, PNP chief General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa assured yesterday.

“Despite Taal’s activity having simmered significantly, we are not out of the woods just yet because of an emerging public health emergency emanating from neighboring China (which) is threatening Asia and the world.

“Although local health authorities are yet to declare a national health emergency, the PNP is taking preparatory measures to capacitate itself to perform public safety functions in support of public health initiatives of government to address the threat,” he said.

Gen. Gamboa said that the PNP will again be seeking “the cooperation and support of our people should it become necessary for national authorities to implement public health measures that will require police intervention.”

Cristina Lee-Pisco, Jester P. Manalastas, Alfred Dalizon, Ryan Ponce Pacpaco