Senators want 'Great Wall' vs Chinese visitors amid first Philippine novel coronavirus case

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Senators want 'Great Wall' vs Chinese visitors amid first Philippine novel coronavirus case
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto wants a "Great Wall" against Chinese visitors for the time being.
The STAR / Mong Pintolo

MANILA, Philippines — Following the Department of Health's confirmation of the Philippines' first case of the novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV), senators urged the government to issue a temporary ban on Chinese visitors.

The DOH on Thursday confirmed that a 38-year-old woman who arrived in the Philippines on January 21 from Wuhan via Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. 

She was displaying no symptoms linked to the virus, health officials said. 

"I think it is time to put a temporary 'Do not enter sign' on our doorstep for visitors from China," Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement.

“This is an assertion of national wellbeing. And an acceptance of the fact that our defenses and capacity to respond to a health emergency is not that strong."

Despite strong calls for a ban, both the DOH and the Palace said there is no urgent need for it. 

The DOH, in particular, said it had to consider how China would react to such a ban, adding that it could be perceived as unfair. 

Recto in his statement asserted that this should only be a temporary initiative that should be regarded as a precautionary measure. 

"Let us explain to them that we are not permanently closing our doors. This is not a permanent Great Wall. This is only during the duration of the coronavirus crisis," Recto said.

“When China sneezes, we get pneumonia. If that is the case, then an ounce of border control is worth a ton of cure."

The Senate President Pro Tempore also lamented the government's response at the outset of the scare.

“Abundant caution should have been exercised,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, too, backed this call.

"This temporary travel ban will give time for our health authorities to set in place all safeguards necessary in case there are more confirmation of the 2019-nCoV presence in the country from those under present surveillance," she said. 

The senator also called for assistance for overseas Filipino workers who were in China or other affected countries and who were seeking repatriation. 

Sen. Bong Go on Wednesday expressed that he would also be in favor of a travel ban if the situation grew dire. 

"Kung saka-sakaling kakailanganin ay irerekomenda natin kay Pangulong Duterte 'yan. Araw-araw naman po may inter-agency (coordination). Nakatutok tayo dito, ang ating mga health officials, foreign officials," Go said during an interview with Radyo Pilipinas.

"Antayin lang natin ang kanilang rekomendasyon. Kung sakali, pabor ako diyan para maiwasan po itong pagkalat."

For his part, Sen. Francis Pangilinan twice called for a ban on Chinese travelers on Tuesday and later on Wednesday. 

"A total 1,626,309 tourists from mainland China visited the country from January to November 2019," the senator reasoned. 

"That's over 4,800 Chinese tourists every day."

2019 NCOV


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