At a press conference yesterday, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the five patients in Metro Manila were classified as persons under investigation (PUIs) after manifesting symptoms of respiratory infection and having history of travel in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.
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Suspected nCoV cases in Philippines rise to 27
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Five more people in Metro Manila are now “under investigation” for the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV), bringing to 27 the total number of persons in the Philippines suspected of having the potentially deadly virus.

At a press conference yesterday, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the five patients in Metro Manila were classified as persons under investigation (PUIs) after manifesting symptoms of respiratory infection and having history of travel in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

“The five additional (cases) on PUI status are all from Metro Manila and they are undergoing preliminary tests,” Domingo said, noting that all of them are foreign nationals, mostly Chinese.

“There is no Filipino PUI as of this time,” Domingo added.

The Department of Health (DOH) is awaiting results of the laboratory samples taken from 19 PUIs. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) conducted the tests for 13 PUIs, while samples from six patients were sent to Australia.

Domingo said the 24 PUIs remain confined in hospital until they have tested negative for nCoV, like the three who have been discharged.

Aside from Metro Manila, the DOH said other PUIs are in Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao.

Domingo said the DOH is expecting the arrival this week of the necessary primer from China that will allow the country to diagnose 2019-nCoV.

With the primer, he said the testing for nCoV confirmation can be done locally. At this time, samples have to be sent to Australia for confirmation.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III stressed that there are still no confirmed cases of nCoV in the country, but the government yesterday convened the first interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Duque said members of the task force have agreed to impose temporary restriction on the issuance of visas for travelers from Hubei province.

He also reported that the government is already making preparations to repatriate Filipinos who are interested to come home from China.

“The government will take care of you, whether you chose to stay or return home. For those who choose to return, you will be taken care of in a health facility for monitoring and further medical management,” Duque said.

He added that the government would also issue travel advisory temporarily discouraging non-essential travel to China.

Repatriation protocol

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said the Philippine government is coordinating with Chinese authorities and observing protocol in the repatriation of Filipinos from China.

Although the government does not have actual data, Dulay said there are about 450 Filipinos in Hubei province in China at this time.

“We will repatriate them on condition that they will be quarantined for 14 days not only for their safety, but also of their families,” Dulay said.

World Health Organization (WHO) country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said as of this time, there is still no justification to quarantine all people coming from countries with confirmed cases of nCoV.

“Right now, the justification is very weak to quarantine everybody coming from all those places, because that means we have to quarantine people from 36 countries,” Abeyasinghe said.

He added that there are 4,515 confirmed cases of nCoV globally, including 106 deaths. Thirty-seven of the cases were reported in 11 countries outside China. The current global fatality rate of nCoV is at 2.9 percent.

The WHO, according to Abeyasinghe, is undertaking risk assessment in a bid to minimize disruption of social life and risk to communities due to nCoV.

He belied reports that the infection can be transmitted during incubation period or while the person is not manifesting symptoms.

“We are working with a global team of experts and we cannot confirm that report right now,” the WHO official said.

Dulay said China has stopped its nationals from traveling abroad in groups, but business and individual travelers are still allowed.

He added that the task force has decided to come out with temporary measures to impose travel restrictions on tourists coming from China for health reasons.

Palace awaiting WHO, DOH recommendation

Malacañang is waiting for the recommendation of the WHO and the DOH on the supposed measures to be taken in addressing the problems brought about by the nCoV.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said before giving any pronouncement, the government should be very cautious on the steps it will undertake regarding the new virus.

Panelo stressed that the government’s primordial concern is the safety of Filipinos and to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He also explained that the Philippine government would cooperate with the Chinese government on its lockdown order in some parts of China where about 1,000 Filipinos are working.

“That can be threshed out in a formal talk with respect to that, but we must consider the health issue on the spread. Which is for the better, stay there for a while until the crisis is over or we’ll get them and bring them here and open the possibility of spreading it here?” Panelo said.

“It will be studied carefully because bringing them here might open the spreading of the disease,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has ordered the suspension of issuing visa upon arrival to passport holders from China as an early precaution relative to the deadly virus. – With Edith Regalado, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla

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