Despite concerns about the country’s capability to handle an outbreak following the confirmation of the 2019 novel coronavirus in the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque did not meet with the department’s task force yesterday, January 30.
Instead, the high-level meeting would happen on the following day. Health and security officials were set to “discuss the first confirmed case and developments” of the outbreak, according to the health chief in a press briefing.
For now, the Bureau of Quarantine “remains on high alert for stricter border surveillance” among travelers, especially to those coming from countries with confirmed cases.
Duque added that DOH’s health facilities are also “equipped and ready to handle cases of the novel coronavirus.”
The government agency yesterday afternoon confirmed the country’s first case of nCoV, who is a 38-year-old female who flew from Wuhan, China and arrived in the Philippines on January 21.
The woman, isolated at infectious diseases facility San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, is reported to be “currently asymptomatic” which means she has not yet exhibited symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
The DOH said that the patient “sought consult and was admitted in one of the country’s government hospitals” on January 25 after she experienced a mild cough.
Her samples were then taken to Australia’s Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory for confirmatory tests, which eventually returned on Thursday with positive results of nCoV.
As of this writing, 29 patients are still under investigation, with 23 of them admitted in hospitals while five of them were discharged but are being strictly monitored.
DOH has recommended the temporary restriction on issuance of visas for travelers coming from Hubei Province in China amid the outbreak.
‘Where is the sense of urgency?’
As the suspected cases in the Philippines increased, concerns over the government’s ability to handle another outbreak surfaced on social media.
Unsurprisingly, many questioned the health department’s decision to delay a high-level meeting with its task force even though the country has already seen its first confirmed case yesterday.
“Where is the sense of urgecy,” a Twitter user commented.
“‘Di ba uso emergency meeting,” wrote another user.
“HINDI NIYO BA KAYA NGAYON? I mean, gets ko naman na measures are being considered PERO at a time like this talaga?” another concerned Filipino said.
“January 13 palang may international news agencies na nag-report na may cases na ng novel coronavirus outside China, ‘di man lang kayo nag-meeting?” wrote another Twitter user.
“Inantay pa na may ma-confirm na kaso na possibly nakahawa na?” she added.
A Filipino couldn’t help but bluntly exclaim yesterday, “Bukas pa?! Kasi mag-a-alas-singko (5pm)?!”
Government offices and establishments usually close at 5 p.m.
Duque held the press briefing to announce the country’s first confirmed case around 4 p.m. yesterday.
Rumors about nCoV have been making the rounds among the online Filipino community over the weekend amid the influx of Chinese nationals due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s foreign policy shift since he assumed office.
Last January 26, media personality Raffy Tulfo shared a series of posts about the alleged presence of the novel coronavirus in Binondo, also known as Manila’s “Chinatown” district.
Several hospitals have already debunked viral claims about supposedly having nCoV-positive patients.