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PH reports first coronavirus death

A MOTHER and son  onboard a jeepney wear surgical masks  to protect themselves against the coronavirus. (Ali Vicoy)

A MOTHER and son  onboard a jeepney wear face masks to protect themselves against the coronavirus. (Ali Vicoy)


A 44-year-old man from Wuhan, China, listed as the Philippine’s second confirmed case of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD), died last Saturday, making him the first nCoV-related death outside China, the Department of Health (DoH) announced Sunday.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the fatality was a companion of the country’s first confirmed case – the 38-year-old Chinese woman who also came from Wuhan. It was reported that the two went to Cebu and Dumaguete City before heading to Manila.

The Chinese man’s death has deepened global fears about an epidemic that has claimed more than 300 lives.

The first foreign fatality came as an escalating number of governments around the world closed their borders to people from China in a bid to stop it from spreading.

Duque said that the Chinese man was admitted for “isolation and supportive treatment” at the San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

“Both patients are from Wuhan, China and arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong last January 21, 2020. The second confirmed case was admitted for pneumonia last January 25, 2020 after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat,” said Duque.

“Over the course of the patient’s admission, he developed severe pneumonia due to viral and bacterial infections. In his last few days, the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, however, the condition of the patient deteriorated within his last 24 hours resulting in his demise,” he added.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said that the Chinese man died because of “complications due to pneumonia.”

Domingo, meanwhile, said that the 38-year-old Chinese woman is now in stable condition but remains in isolation at the San Lazaro Hospital. “The patient has no symptoms; no fever, no cough,” he said.

The Health undersecretary said that the 29-year-old Chinese man who died recently of pneumonia at San Lazaro Hospital was found to be negative for 2019-nCoV ARD. It was previously reported that the man was tested positive for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, that causes Acute Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

“This is the first reported (mortality) outside China. However, we need to take into mind that this is not a locally acquired case. This patient came from the epicenter of the outbreak – Wuhan, China, where there have been a very large number of cases,” said World Health Organization Country Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe.

“We are working together with the DoH to both minimize and contain the spread of the disease and also to strengthen management of possible cases of 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease,” he added.

Duque said that they are now in close coordination with the Chinese Embassy regarding the management of the remains of the deceased patient.

“(This is) to ensure the dignified management of the remains according to national and international standards to contain the disease,” he said.

Domingo said that part of their preparations is the immediate cremation of the remains of the patient.

“We are now in coordination with the Chinese Embassy and we are scheduling the remains for cremation. When a person dies from infectious illness, part of the protocol is to cremate as soon as possible,” he said.

Duque said that all measures needed to contain the spread of the virus are being strictly implemented and followed, particularly at the San Lazaro Hospital.

“San Lazaro Hospital has implemented rigorous infection control protocols while caring for these patients. Both patients were isolated following strict isolation standards, and all health personnel who came in contact with them practiced stringent infection control measures and wore appropriate personal protective equipment,” he said.


The Health chief said that the DoH-Epidemiology Bureau is currently conducting contact tracing of passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases.

“EB has secured the manifestos of the flights and is in close coordination with the concerned airlines,” said Duque.
“Contact tracing activities are ongoing in Cebu and Dumaguete, and in other places where the patients stayed and traveled to,” he added.


Since the DoH started its surveillance early January, it has listed a total 36 Persons Under Investigation, including the two positive 2019 nCoV ARD cases.

The Health department said that 24 PUIs were found to be negative with the new virus.

“The new developments warrant a more diligent approach in containing the threats of the 2019-nCoV. The Department of Health is continuously improving and scaling up its public health measures and reminds the public to remain calm and vigilant,” said Duque.


Duque said that the Philippine government has already implemented a temporary travel ban for travelers coming from China and its special administrative regions Macao and Hong Kong.

“The DoH is monitoring every development on the 2019-nCoV very closely and is taking proactive measures to contain the spread of this virus in our country. This health event is fast-evolving and fluid. We are continuously recalibrating our plans and efforts as the situation develops,” he said.

Duque assured the public that “there are no reports of community spread of the virus within the country.”

“All I ask from the public now is to heed the advisories from official DoH channels and to refrain from sharing unverified and unvalidated information. I assure the public that we will keep you abreast of any information that we have,” he said.

“The public is reminded to practice prevention measures such as proper hand hygiene and observance of cough etiquette,” he added.

Since emerging from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the mysterious coronavirus has infected 14,000 people across China and spread to 24 countries.

The WHO late last week declared the situation a global health emergency, and nations have taken extraordinary measures to build virtual fortresses against the disease.

The United States, Australia, and Israel banned foreign nationals from visiting if they had been in China over the previous 14 days, and warned their own citizens from travelling there.

Mongolia, Russia, and Nepal closed their land borders, while Papua New Guinea went as far as to ban anyone arriving from ports or airports across Asia.

The containment measures may have slowed the spread of the virus but not stopped it.

Britain, Russia, and Sweden also this weekend confirmed their first infections.


And the death toll in China soared to 304 on Sunday, with authorities reporting 45 new deaths from the previous day.

There were 2,590 confirmed cases in China, bringing the total to nearly 14,500.

The number of confirmed infections in China is far higher than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak of 2002-03.

SARS, which is caused by a pathogen similar to the new coronavirus and also originated in China, killed 774 people worldwide – most of them in mainland China and Hong Kong.

China has also imposed unprecedented measures to curb people travelling – with the respiratory virus believed to be able to jump from person to person via droplets.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and the capital of Hubei province, has been under virtual lockdown since January 23 with the closure of all transport routes out.

Similar measures have been in place across all of Hubei, effectively sealing off more than 50 million people.

The emergence of the virus came at the worst time for China, coinciding with the Lunar New Year Holiday when hundreds of millions travel across the country in planes, trains and buses for family reunions.

The holiday was scheduled to end on Friday, but it was extended to Monday to give authorities more time to try and deal with the crisis.

While Hubei and some major cities, including Shanghai, extended the holiday, work was due to resume in others and people were criss-crossing the nation over the weekend to get back in time. (with a report from AFP)