Duterte wants new task force on new coronavirus strain

Duterte wants new task force on new coronavirus strain

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said Saturday that he wants to form a new task force composed of medical experts to deal with the new coronavirus strain which was first reported in the United Kingdom.

Duterte said during the meeting he called to discuss the new virus variant that the task force would be separate from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

“We (IATF-EID) know nothing yet about [the new coronavirus strain],” he said. “Ideally it should be medical persons who would focus on that new strain.”

The IATF-EID, created by former President Benigno Aquino III, is already tasked to prevent or minimize the entry of people suspected or confirmed to have been infected with new infectious pathogens, such as the new coronavirus variant which is believed to be much more infectious.

Health experts said during the meeting that while the new strain is more contagious, there is still no evidence that it is more virulent.

Still, Duterte said that the government should not be complacent about it. “We should treat them as a deadly disease that would be entering the Philippines,” he said.

Several suggestions on how to prevent the new strain from coming to the shores of the country were floated by Cabinet officials, among them is to bar the entry of people from Sabah, Malaysia into Sulu.

Malaysia’s health ministry has reported that it has identified a new coronavirus strain in Sabah similar to the ones found in South Africa, Australia and the Netherlands.

Duterte has not yet said whether he would approve of the proposal.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, suggested that all travelers coming from countries with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus variant undergo a 14-day quarantine at the New Clark City in Pampanga.

He also said that a travel ban should not be implemented unless there is community transmission of the new strain in a country.

The Philippines has barred all travelers who came from the UK from coming into the country until the end of the year on fears of the new strain.

Duterte also withdrew his approval of the conduct of face-to-face classes in certain areas also due to reports of the new virus variant.

— Xave Gregorio




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