Philippines records first community transmission of coronavirus, public health emergency declared

A temperature screening in Manila on Jan 31, 2020. The country's health ministry declared a code red alert which calls on medical professionals to be prepared to report for duty.
A temperature screening in Manila on Jan 31, 2020. The country's health ministry declared a code red alert which calls on medical professionals to be prepared to report for duty.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines said on Saturday (March 7) that it had confirmed its first case of community transmission of the coronavirus.

The case involves a 62-year-old Filipino man who had not travelled abroad recently. His 59-year-old wife has also been infected, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the South-east Asian nation to six, the health ministry said, adding that both are being treated at a government hospital.

President Rodrigo Duterte plans to declare a nationwide public health emergency, the presidential aide said on Saturday.  

Duterte has agreed to declare a health emergency following the latest development, Bong Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and a close aide of the president, told reporters.

All government agencies were asked to “undertake critical, urgent and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the COVID-19 threat,” Go said.

The health ministry declared a code red alert, which calls on medical professionals to be prepared to report for duty, and recommended that President Rodrigo Duterte declare a public health emergency, which would help with the procurement of critical supplies as well as with quarantine measures.

"This is a pre-emptive call to ensure that national and local governments and public and private healthcare providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases," Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news conference.

There have been three cases reported in two days. Before that, three Chinese tourists were diagnosed with the virus in January and the first week of February.

The coronavirus has spread to more than 90 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people and killing over 3,400 people worldwide.