Duterte asks for calm, vigilance as threat of COVID-19 grows
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - February 13, 2020 - 10:40am

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2; 11:57 a.m.)  — President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to “remain calm and vigilant” and take precautionary measures amid the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a bid to allay the public’s fears. 

In a taped video message, Duterte said it is normal to “feel anxious, concerned and even afraid” of the SARS-like illness that has infected nearly 60,000 people worldwide.

But he stressed that the government and its partner agencies are working together to protect Filipinos against what he called a “very grave threat.” 

“The government with the World Health Organization and medical societies are addressing the challenge and preparing for any eventuality,” the chief executive said, reading a prepared speech. 

To contain the spread of the virus, the Philippines enforced a travel ban on foreign nationals coming from China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau. Taiwan was later on added, a move denounced by the self-ruled island nation.

Events where a huge number of attendees is expected have been also canceled, following the recommendation of DOH.

He called on the public to “remain calm, vigilant and responsible” as he urged them to monitor updates from the governments and not believe unverified claims about COVID-19.

“I also ask for your trust and cooperation, support as we face the challenge. Let us unify together as one nation. This challenge can be overcome,” Duterte said. 

Duterte had previously played down the risk posed by the novel coronavirus, saying "there's nothing really to be extra scared of that coronavirus thing."

"Although it has affected a lot of countries, but you know, one or two in any country is not really that fearsome," he also said.

WATCH: 'Everything is well': Duterte assures nation on novel coronavirus risk

Take precautionary measures

The president also called on the public to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Endorsing the call of the DOH and other medical professionals, Duterte advised Filipinos to maintain cleanliness, practice frequent handwashing, practice proper cough etiquette and wear surgical masks when sick. 

He also urged Filipinos to monitor updates from the WHO and from the government. 

“Sa gobyerno kayo nakatutok. Nandiyan ang totoo sa gobyerno, wala diyan sa mga taong haka-haka na wala namang ginawa kundi manakot ng kapwa niya,” Duterte said

(Focus on the government. The truth is with the government, not with those with unverified claims who do nothing but scare others.)

Duterte also said the government is ready to bring home Filipinos who remain in lockdown areas in China. 

Some 30 Filipinos arrived in the Philippines from virus epicenter China Sunday morning. They are currently being quarantined at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City. 

The coronavirus disease that emerged in China at the end of 2019 has killed over 1,300 people. There are two reported deaths outside mainland China: one in the Philippines and the other in Hong Kong. 

The Health department said there are 238 patients under investigation currently admitted in different health facilities. 

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