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DoH calls coronavirus a public health emergency

The Department of Health has said that it is considering the 2019 novel coronavirus as a public health emergency despite the World Health Organization’s decision not to declare it as such yet.

“We are treating it as a public health emergency because our goal is really No. 1 – if possible – stop this from entering the country…We want to make sure that if it does get here, we are able to contain it, isolate it, and of course, manage the patients properly,” said Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo.

“We are on alert because we are really near China and the Asian region of course has higher probability of the virus coming in compared for example countries that are farther,” he added.

The DoH had earlier directed the Bureau of Quarantine to strictly monitor and screen arriving passengers in airports and seaports – particularly if they manifested symptoms of coronavirus and had history of travel to Wuhan, China where the 2019 nCoV reportedly originated.

“Nag-order na si Secretary (Francisco Duque III) ibalik ‘yung health declaration card para i-fill up muna nila, sabihin kung meron silang exposure, kung nagtravel sila kung saan, may narararamdaman sila and more importantly to put their contact information there para in case we need to contact them in the future,” said Domingo.

The DoH and the WHO are advocating good personal hygiene, observe cough etiquette, and strengthen the immune system.

Domingo had earlier assured that the country has the infrastructure and system ready in case the 2019 nCoV is detected here. “It’s really just a matter of activating it. Ever since SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), meron na tayong quick-response system na gagawin,” he said.

Aside from WHO, national health officials said they are also in close coordination with the China Center for Disease Control to get a better understanding on the new virus.

Domingo has recommended to Filipinos to avoid travel to China for now.

“Right now at this point, if unnecessary ‘yung travel to China, then it might be prudent to delay the flights until the disease is more clearly understood and until it is completely contained,” he said.

Domingo said the recommendation is only applicable to China and not to other countries that have a documented case of the 2019 nCoV.

“Only in China. The other countries have very isolated cases that were detected immediately and the patients are in isolation so there’s no community transmission even in the other countries that have reported cases. Their cases are still all imported and isolated.” (Analou de Vera)