Philippines to declare public health emergency to contain spread of coronavirus

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 • Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will declare a public health emergency to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, after the country recorded its first case of community transmission, officials said yesterday.

The nation's health ministry has reported three new cases of the infection since Friday, adding to the three Chinese tourists who were diagnosed with the virus in January and the first week of last month.

Mr Duterte has agreed to declare a health emergency following the latest development, Mr 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", Mr Go said.

The Philippines' first case of community transmission involves a 62-year-old Filipino who had not travelled abroad recently.

His 59-year-old wife has also been infected, bringing the number of confirmed cases in the country to six, the health ministry said, adding that both are being treated at a government hospital.

Earlier, a 48-year-old Filipino who visited Tokyo also tested positive for Covid-19.

The health ministry declared a code red alert which calls on medical professionals to be prepared to report for duty and recommended the declaration of 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.

The authorities are tracking down people who came in contact with the patients, as well as those who interacted with three individuals from Taiwan, Japan and Australia who tested positive after visiting the Philippines, Mr Duque said.

Last month, a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan died in the Philippines from the virus - the first death recorded outside of China.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 08, 2020, with the headline Philippines to declare public health emergency to contain spread of coronavirus. Subscribe