'What do you mean relaxed?' Panelo counters criticism of gov't response to nCoV threat

'What do you mean relaxed?' Panelo counters criticism of gov't response to nCoV threat
A hospital employee dons protective gear inside the holding area for patients suspected of being infected with a deadly SARS-life virus which originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, at the Manila Doctors Hospital compound in Manila on January 31, 2020. The Philippines reported its first case of the virus on January 30, a 38-year-old woman who arrived from Wuhan and is no longer showing symptoms.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration had not been lax in its response to the threat of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Acute Respiratory Disease (2019-nCoV ARD), presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Friday.

President Rodrigo Duterte only declared a travel ban on Chinese nationals coming from affected areas in China a day after the Department of Health confirmed the first case of the deadly virus in the Philippines.

"Ano bang relaxed, eh, operational na nga ang lahat ng protocols," Panelo said.

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

Aside from the travel ban on Chinese nationals coming from Hubei province and other affected areas, the Department of Labor and Employment issued guidelines on Friday to curb the spead of the virus in the workplace.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on Thursday ordered drivers and conductors of public utility vehicles to wear face masks. Operators of PUV terminals have also been told to provide passengers with hand sanitizer dispensers.

First confirmed case

On Thursday, the DOH announced that a 38-year-old Chinese tourist tested positive for the 2019-nCoV ARD.

The patient came from Wuhan City, the epicenter of the outbreak that has infected over 7,700 persons, via Hong Kong on January 21. She traveled to Cebu and Dumaguete before arriving in Metro Manila, where she was confined last January 25.

The DOH said the first confirmed 2019-nCoV ARD patient in the country is being isolated at San Lazaro Hospital, a special national hospital medical center or infectious diseases, in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs is getting ready to repatriate Filipinos in China, particularly those who are in Wuhan City and the rest of Hubei province.

The disease first emerged in Wuhan, where a seafood market was identified as the center of the outbreak.

The DFA said it intends to repatriate the first batch of Filipinos next week subject to China's rules on disease containment. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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