'Avoid sowing panic': Filipinos urged against spreading false info on new coronavirus

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
'Avoid sowing panic': Filipinos urged against spreading false info on new coronavirus
An airport official wearing a face mask checks the passport of a passenger at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok on January 21, 2020.
AFP / Mladen Antonov

Safety measures needed in Philippine schools, Gatchalian says

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros cautioned the public against spreading unverified information on a new strain of coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China and neighboring countries.

This, after the Department of Health announced Tuesday that it is probing a suspected case of novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV following the arrival of a five-year-old Chinese boy in Cebu City last week. The child had travelled from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease was discovered.

The boy, who has been hospitalized with flu symptoms, tested positive for “non-specific pancoronavirus assay,” prompting health authorities to send samples from the child to a laboratory in Australia for further testing.

“Health authorities are still verifying if this is the same as the 2019-nCoV. In the meantime, I’d like to emphasize that sowing panic will be detrimental to public health,” Hontiveros said.

 “We need correct information to get to the people. Kaya huwag tayong magpakalat ng fake news (So we should not spread fake news),” she said, adding people should ensure they are reading verified information before sharing anything online.

Three other Chinese nationals were checked by authorities at the Kalibo International Airport but they did not show symptoms that corresponded with the World Health Organization warning about the virus from Wuhan.

The new coronavirus, which has caused alarm for its similarity to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), has killed nine people in China.

Countries have been intensifying efforts to stop the spread of the disease, raising concerns as millions of people travel across China to celebrate a major holiday.

“I am confident that our Department of Health and Bureau of Quarantine are doing their best to protect public health. But I ask our authorities to heighten preparation for the influx of more travelers from China due to the Lunar New Year on Saturday,” Hontiveros said.

On Tuesday, Sen. Imee Marcos said that the increased risk of an outbreak in the Philippines of the novel coronavirus can be attributed to lax immigration procedures for employees of Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs). 

She called for stricter preventive measures in airports and seaports, "particularly in Manila, Kalibo, Cebu and Davao which have direct travel links with China."

"Dapat maging alerto at magpatupad ng precautionary measure ang Department of Health, Manila International Airport Authority at iba pang ahensya ng gobyerno para di makalusot ang Coronavirus na maaaring manggaling sa China, Thailand, o Japan", she said.

(The Department of Health, the Manila International Airport Authority and other government agencies should be alert and implement precautionary measures so the coronavirus, which could come from China, Thailand or Japan, will not slip in)

Safety measures needed in schools

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian meanwhile called on the Department of Education to put schools on alert and ensure preventive measures are in place to protect students from a new coronavirus strain.

He said schools should intensify sanitary measures—such as frequent handwashing, observance of cough etiquette, proper cooking of food—to keeps students and employees safe.

“Sa ating pangambang makapasok itong bagong coronavirus sa ating bansa, mabuti nang maging sigurado tayo dahil ang isang kumpirmadong kaso ay maaaring maikalat sa iba,” Gatchalian, chair of the Senate's basic education, arts and culture panel, said.

(Because of our fear that this new coronavirus might enter the Philippines, it is better that we are safe as one confirmed case can be spread to others.) — with a report from Agence France-Presse

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