Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Chinese government has assured Philippine officials it is providing sufficient food and medical facilities for all, including foreigners, and is implementing all measures to stop the spread of the virus, including a lockdown on Wuhan City, capital of Hubei where the 2019-nCoV is believed to have originated.
STAR/ File
China warns repatriation may spread virus
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Chinese officials have warned against airlifting foreign nationals from the contagion-hit Chinese province of Hubei, saying an evacuation could facilitate the spread of the novel coronavirus (nCoV).

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Chinese government has assured Philippine officials it is providing sufficient food and medical facilities for all, including foreigners, and is implementing all measures to stop the spread of the virus, including a lockdown on Wuhan City, capital of Hubei where the 2019-nCoV is believed to have originated. 

“China implementing all measures to stop spread of virus including lockdown in Wuhan. Repat will only spread virus,” Locsin posted Thursday on Twitter, the day after a meeting of department Assistant Secretaries Meynardo Montealegre and Frank Ferrer with Chinese consul general Luo Gang.

However, the DFA chief indicated that the Chinese government would share with Philippine authorities how the US evacuated its nationals from Hubei, as the Duterte administration appeared firm in repatriating Filipinos.

The warning came as the Philippines is set to repatriate its nationals from China next week and impose a temporary ban on travelers from Hubei as cases of nCoV continued to rise.

The DFA, in a statement on Thursday, said Filipinos in Wuhan City and the rest of Hubei province will be prioritized.

“The DFA intends to repatriate the first batch of Filipinos next week subject to China’s rules on disease containment, including immigration clearances, quarantine process, among others,” the agency said.

“Filipinos in Wuhan City and the rest of Hubei province will be afforded priority in the first batch of repatriates,” it said. 

There are around 300 Filipinos in Hubei, 150 of them in Wuhan City, according to the DFA. 

Around 50 out of the estimated 300 Filipinos have expressed intention to leave as the number of nCoV infections there continues to rise, the agency said.

Filipinos who wish to be included in the first batch may contact the Philippine embassy in Beijing or the nearest consulate general in their area on Feb. 3.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, Filipino repatriates will be subjected to a 14-day mandatory quarantine in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Health (DOH), the DFA said.

The DOH on Thursday confirmed the first case of nCoV in the country, a 38-year-old tourist from Wuhan, who arrived in the Philippines on Jan. 21.

In its report, the World Health Organization said there are 83 cases of nCoV in 18 countries. Of these, seven had no history of travel in China. 

Strong, powerful measures

The Chinese government said it is using “strong” and “powerful” measures to combat the novel coronavirus, even as it appealed to the international community for “gratitude and respect” for its efforts to prevent the spread of the new contagion. 

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian also asked Chinese nationals who are being observed for nCoV to cooperate with Philippine authorities. 

“We have maintained very close communication with authorities concerned of this country and we have asked your authorities to take care of them while they are being observed with regard to whether they be tested negative or positive,” Huang said at a press conference at the Chinese embassy in Makati City before the weekend. 

The envoy also assured the Philippines that Filipinos in China would “have the best treatment and best care from authorities concerned” as well.

He said Chinese authorities are in close coordination with the DOH to assist in the prevention and control of the epidemic and that China’s government is “fighting very hard” to control the epidemic and has mobilized resources to combat the virus, which has killed more than 200 people in China. 

“We are taking the most comprehensive and strictest measures. We are very confident we will win this war against the epidemic,” he said.

Yesterday, the Chinese embassy donated 2,000 face masks to Philippine immigration personnel. 

“They are at the forefront of this fight against the virus,” Huang said. 

The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce will also donate 600,000 pieces of face masks to the country, he said.

TEODORO LOCSIN JR.
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