'Novel coronavirus outbreak a health issue, not an opportunity for tourism'
San Lazaro Hospital in Manila has implemented a "No face mask, No entry" policy after the Department of Health confirmed that one of the patients under investigation tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

'Novel coronavirus outbreak a health issue, not an opportunity for tourism'

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 9, 2020 - 4:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — The risk posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak is a serious health issue and should not be seen as an opportunity to make a profit, activist farmers' group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said Sunday.

The group was reacting to comments that the 2019-nCoV outbreak and the resulting travel bans to curb the spread of the virus would be a boon to domestic tourism.

"More than 800 people have died due to nCov while 34,500 are infected, and 6,000 of which are severely sick due to this new respiratory disease that is quickly spreading to countries outside China," KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a press statement.

According to an Agence France-Press report on Sunday morning, more than 37,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China.

He said policymakers should not focused on "how to profit from a serious health situation that could evolve into a dangerous global pandemic."

Sen. Cynthia Villar, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform, has been quoted in news reports as saying the outbreak could boost domestic tourism.

"Since there’s a ban on any flight coming in from China, Hong Kong, and Macau, so they can’t cruise for fear of getting infected of nCoV so we will rely on farm tourism and it is local tourism," Villar is quoted as saying.

She has also been quoted as saying the travel restrictions are an opportunity for Filipinos to explore destinations in the Philippines, including model farms. 

Tourism precautions

The Department of Tourism has called on tour operators and hotel and resort operators to "take immediate protective measures to avoid, correct or remove imminent danger in areas where tourists are evidently at risk of infection." The measures include screening clients and referring those who may have been exposed to nCoV to hospitals.

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat on February 2 said "the safety and protection of our citizens thriving in our tourist spots, the employees of the tourism sector, and domestic and foreign tourists alike remain the Department of Tourism's priority" as she called on stakeholders in the tourism industry to follow safety precautions advised by the government and the World Health Organization. 

Organizers of events that draw large crowds, including the Panagbenga festival in Baguio City, have opted to postpone or cancel their events amid the risk posed by nCoV. 

Aside from advocating proper cough etiquette and avoiding crowds if possible, the Department of Health has also advised "avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)." 

The Department of Labor and Employment meanwhile has advised workers who are sick to stay home and to also avoid crowds.

"For many, nCov has become a matter of life and death," KMP's Ramos said, adding that focusing on the gains from the outbreak is "cold-hearted."

As of Sunday, the Department of Health announced that there have been 267 persons under investigation for the novel coronavirus in the Philippines. There have also been three confirmed cases, including one death.

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