Palace expresses 'serious concern' as suspected novel coronavirus cases soar
Passengers from the luxury passenger cruise ship World Dream wear facemasks as they visit a theme park in Manila after the luxury cruise ship with more than 700 passengers, mostly from China and Hong Kong, arrived the day before at the port in Manila on Jan. 29, 2020. The ship, which departed from China days ago, arrived in the Philippine capital on January 28 after the ship cancelled a scheduled six-hour visit to Subic Bay, north of Manila, after the city mayor called for the suspension of cruise ship visits and hundreds of residents staged a street protest over concerns its passengers could spread the virus.
Ted Aljibe/AFP

Palace expresses 'serious concern' as suspected novel coronavirus cases soar

Alexis Romero ( - January 29, 2020 - 6:12pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Wednesday expressed "serious concern" on the rising number of individuals being investigated for the novel coronavirus, or 2019 nCoV, even as it assured the public that the government is continuously working to keep the Philippines free from the virus.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered agencies to study ways to protect Filipinos from the NCoV. He said the public need not panic about the disease but should also undertake measures to protect themselves.

"We're looking at it with serious concern so the President has instructed the DOH (Department of Health) secretary to study and evaluate what better procedure should be taken in order to contain, stop the coming in of this disease in this country," Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

"I talked with (Health) Secretary (Francisco) Duque (III), he said we don't have to worry but we have to make ourselves conscious of the fact that there may be some virus coming on so we have to protect ourselves by avoiding crowds. If we have to be there we have to wear a mask, we have to wash our hands," he added.

Panelo said agencies are prepared in the event that the Philippines is affected by the virus.

Despite the increasing number of persons under investigation for NCoV, Panelo said it would be difficult to repatriate Filipinos in Wuhan City, the origin and epicenter of the virus.

"Now with respect to the travel restrictions and those who want to be repatriated here, we have already said that it might be difficult to repatriate them because we might even be risking them to contamination. So the best thing, I suppose, is to let them stay there and follow protocols in China, whatever protocols they have," the Palace spokesperson said.

When informed that about 50 Filipinos in Wuhan have signified interest to come home, Panelo replied: "Yes but the problem is we might be opening themselves to contamination because when they leave there they have to go to the airport, they have to ride in whatever. They will do the same here. We might face more problems."

"For now, perhaps we should not (repatriate them)," he added.

Panelo said he has not spoken to Duterte about the repatriation of Filipinos in NCoV-affected areas. 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 26, 2021 - 1:07pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

January 26, 2021 - 1:07pm

Mexico's coronavirus death toll has surpassed 150,000, the government says, a day after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced he had Covid-19.

The health ministry reports 659 more deaths in its daily update, taking the total to 150,273, behind only the United States, Brazil and India.

The overall number of infections registered now stands at more than 1.77 million in the nation of around 128 million, an increase of 8,521 from the previous day. — AFP

January 26, 2021 - 11:41am

Thousands of Australians defy coronavirus rules to protest the country's national day, held on the anniversary of British colonization of the vast continent that its Indigenous population brands "Invasion Day".

Officially recognized as Australia Day, January 26 also sees annual rallies drawing attention to the injustices faced by Indigenous people and calling on the government to change the date of the national holiday.

The celebration of the origins of the modern nation is a time of mourning for Indigenous Australians, who have inhabited the land for 65,000 years and view the arrival of British settlers in 1788 as the beginning of two centuries of pain and suffering.

Thousands of people gathered at a central Sydney park in defiance of police threats of fines and arrests for breaching a 500-person limit on gathering in public places, though organizers called off a march through the city that usually follows. — AFP

January 26, 2021 - 7:38am

The Netherlands was hit by a second wave of riots Monday evening, as protesters again went on the rampage in several cities following the introduction of a coronavirus curfew over the weekend.

Riot police clashed with groups of protesters in Amsterdam as well as the port city of Rotterdam, where people smashed shop windows and ransacked their supplies.  

The unrest also hit Amersfoort in the east, the small southern city of Geleen near Maastricht, The Hague and Den Bosch, police and news reports said.

More than 70 people had been rounded up by 2200 GMT, public newscaster NOS reported.

Geleen police said in an earlier tweet that they were dealing with "rioting youths who are throwing fireworks". — AFP

January 25, 2021 - 2:17pm

New Zealand's first case of coronavirus in the community for more than two months has been identified as the more contagious South African variant, prompting Australia to suspend quarantine-free travel from the neighbouring country for at least 72 hours.

A 56-year-old New Zealander, who recently returned from Europe, tested positive on Saturday to the infectious strain, 10 days after she completed her compulsory two weeks in isolation.

New Zealand has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic, with just 25 deaths from 1,927 confirmed virus cases in a population of five million. —  AFP

January 25, 2021 - 1:05pm

Hong Kong lifted its first neighbourhood coronavirus lockdown on Monday morning after testing some 7,000 people and finding 13 cases as debate swirled over the efficacy of the move.

Over the weekend police moved in to seal off a poor and densely populated neighbourhood of about 150 apartment blocks where coronavirus clusters had sprung up in recent weeks.

Officials went door to door conducting mandatory tests and found 0.17 percent of those tested had the virus.

Some community and business leaders were critical of how the lockdown was carried out. 

But officials defended the move as proportionate and said they would not rule out similar neighbourhood lockdowns.  — AFP

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