Cebu doctor faces raps over false COVID-19 information
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — An optometrist in Cebu City is facing charges for allegedly spreading false information about the  coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

Josephil Brian Consuelo was charged by the police Anti-Cybercrime Group with violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code on the unlawful use of means of publication and unlawful utterances as well as online libel under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Consuelo, a resident of Mandaue City, was arrested on Thursday after he posted on Facebook that a patient infected with COVID-19 died at the University of the Cebu Medical Center.

The hospital’s human resource and legal department denied Consuelo’s claims. A police investigation confirmed that the information was false.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gambao warned the public against spreading unverified information, especially about COVID-2019, to prevent panic.

“We urge the public to refrain from posting unverified information that creates panic and confusion... We will file criminal charges against those spreading false reports,” Gamboa said.

Batanes town on tourist lockdown

 Meanwhile, Mayor Raul de Sagon of Itbayat town in Batanes issued an executive order placing the town on tourist lockdown as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.

Sagun said the town could not cope with another health emergency after the twin earthquakes last year since health facilities on the island are still being rehabilitated.

He said police and Coast Guard personnel were deployed in various ports on the island to prevent the entry of both local and foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, Mt. Pulag and other scenic spots in Kabayan, Benguet will be closed to tourists starting Feb. 24.

In an EO issued on Feb. 12,  Mayor Faustino Aquisan said tour organizers, hotel and homestay management, transport groups and business establishments should inform their customers on the impending ban and institute preventive measures against the acute respiratory disease.

Kapangan, Bakun, La Trinidad, Atok and Kibungan towns in Benguet had earlier declared a lockdown on tourists to prevent the spread of the flu virus.

Also closed to tourists are Pasil, Balbalan and Tinglayan in Kalinga and Sagada, Mountain Province.

More festivals cancelled

The Namunit Tourism Festival on Feb. 25 to 29 and March 10 to 14 is cancelled, Mayor Rodrigo de Gracoa of Sta. Teresita, Cagayan announced after an emergency meeting yesterday.

Malou Elduayan, Pangasinan tourism officer, said Bayambang, San Nicolas and Lingayen towns also cancelled the holding of their town fiesta.

Despite the threat of COVID-19, Elduayan said there are no resort or hotel booking cancellations in Pangasinan.

Yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony at the provincial capitol was however cancelled in view of the memorandum issued by the Departments of Health and the Interior and Local Government against mass gatherings.

PUIs negative for virus

As this developed, nine of 11 persons under investigation (PUIs) in Bulacan tested negative for COVID-19, the provincial health office reported.

In Cagayan Valley, eight PUIs were cleared of the respiratory disease.

In Zamboanga City, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said a city ordinance against spitting, is among the preventive measures to be strictly implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. – With Raymund Catindig, Eva Visperas, Ramon Efren Lazaro, Roel Pareño

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