New Zealand school bars Filipino children amid coronavirus panic
The books titled “We Are Amazing (Kami ay Magaling),” “We Are Beautiful (Kami ay Maganda)” and “We Are Blessed (Kami ay Mapalad)” were published with funding support from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
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New Zealand school bars Filipino children amid coronavirus panic
Franco Luna ( - February 13, 2020 - 6:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — Four Filipino kids, aged 7 to 12, were barred from entering their New Zealand-based primary school over fears that they would infect their schoolmates with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a report said. 

The New Zealand Herald reported on Thursday morning that the Papakura Normal School told the families of the children to "self-isolate" for 14 days, which is how long COVID-19 takes to incubate, after the children, New Zealand citizens Kristel and Mary Dumalaon and Joyce and Jasmine Botor, returned to school on Monday following family visits to the Philippines.

Beth Botor, one mother, said she was contacted on the phone by the school's deputy principal, who said, "I'm a deputy principal from the school and I took your kids from their rooms because of the need to isolate them."

As of this writing, the Philippines has only recorded three confirmed cases of the virus which have only led to one death. Health officials insist that all three cases were imported from Wuhan, the virus' city of origin, and thus, the country still faces zero local transmission.

The Health Department also confirmed that the first confirmed case has since recovered and tested negative for the virus twice, the department's requirement before reaching such a conclusion. 

'Not fair for us'

Ronnel Botor, one of the childrens' father said, "The owner of my wife's store called the owner of my store and said I was quarantined. It's not fair for us, it's not fair for the children."

The mother of the other two students, Mary Jane Dumalaon, insisted that her children did not display any symptoms related to the new virus. 

The Herald reported that the school later apologized to the two families after the publication reached out for comment and said all four students were free to return to school.

"While we initially asked a family to self-isolate, based on our discussions with the Ministry of Education and on Ministry of Health advice we have advised the family that they are now able to return to school immediately," Papakura Normal principal Derek Linington said.

'Unnecessary panic'

According to the report, the families had never been to China, whose Hubei Province is where the novel coronavirus epicenter is located. 

Schools International Education Business Association chairman Patrick Walsh told The New Zealand Herald that schools in the country were struggling with "unnecessary panic" around the virus, which has claimed the lives of over 1000 people in China.

"While we can understand a certain level of nervousness among parents, when someone calls to essentially try and ban international students out of coming to school, that is unnecessary and unreasonable," he said.

"That talk needs to be contained because that increases the risk of slipping across to xenophobic attitudes, which we don't want to take hold in any way."

'This xenophobia thing'

Closer to home, President Rodrigo Duterte has hit anti-Chinese sentiment brewing across the nation amid panic over the novel coronavirus. 

Foreign Policy reported on Monday, February 10 that the virus had "also worsened the already fraught relationship between the majority of ethnic Filipinos and the country’s sizable community of Chinese Filipinos."

The chief executive said such instances were evidence of prevalent xenophobia, or a prejudice for people of different nationalities, in the country. 

"China has been kind to us, we should show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia thing," Duterte said.

“Kung magtanong kayo if I will bar the Chinese from entering, the answer of course is no. That is an utter disrespect to a human being."

As of this writing, the Philippines has recorded a new high of 441 persons under investigation for possible COVID-19. — with reports from Agence France-Presse and The New Zealand Herald

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