Wuhan virus: Philippines confirms first case in Chinese woman from Wuhan

Passengers wearing face masks who arrived from China's Guangzhou line up for immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, on Jan 22, 2020.
Passengers wearing face masks who arrived from China's Guangzhou line up for immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, on Jan 22, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA - The Philippines on Thursday (Jan 30) reported its first case of the new Sars-like coronavirus that began spreading from the Chinese central city of Wuhan in December.

A 38-year-old Chinese woman now at a hospital in Manila tested positive for the Wuhan virus, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at a news briefing.

The woman arrived on Jan 21 from Wuhan, via Hong Kong, and had been to the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete, popular tourist destinations in central Philippines.

She went to a hospital on Jan 25 for mild coughing. She was admitted and tested for the Wuhan virus.

Dr Duque said the woman was not showing signs of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has so far sickened more than 7,700 people and killed at least 170.

Health officials have reported 29 suspected cases of infections in the Philippines caused by the Wuhan virus. Eighteen were in metropolitan Manila.

One patient, a 29-year-old Chinese man from Yunnan province, died on Wednesday at a government hospital in Manila, but most likely from another cause. He was said to be suffering from other serious illnesses.

Dr Duque said the health ministry was "on top of this evolving situation".

Dr Ferchito Avelino, head of the epidemiology bureau, said health officials were already in touch with passengers who were on the same flight as the Wuhan virus-infected patient.

Health workers had also been dispatched to places in Cebu and Dumaguete where the woman had been.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said all passengers on flights from China landing at the city's airport would be quarantined for two weeks.

She did not say when this would be enforced, but announced that two locations that could hold 200 patients would be ready in two or three days.

Dr Duque said the Philippines was looking into banning flights from more provinces in China.

The Philippines has already shut its borders to those coming from Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province.

The country has also stopped issuing visas to Chinese nationals on arrival, although there has been no order to bar Chinese nationals from entering.

Close to 1.5 million Chinese tourists went to the Philippines in the first 10 months of last year, and over 4 million more are believed to be working in the country's booming offshore gaming industry.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said the government was "preparing for the worst". But he said he was not inclined to ban all tourist traffic from China.

"At this time, I am not for it. It would not be fair," he said.