Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the Philippines is expected to lose P42 billion in tourism revenues from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan due to outbreak of COVID-19.
Romulo-Puyat told legislators Wednesday during a joint congressional hearing that the expected reduction in tourist arrivals from the markets affected by the outbreak will result in forgone revenues that will carry over until April.
In February alone, the country is expected to lose P16 billion in tourism revenues, she said.
Citing data from the Civil Aviation Board, Puyat said 465 canceled flights are recorded per week due to COVID-19, which has already killed over 1,000 people in China.
The Department of Health reported Wednesday that two of the 32 repatriates from Hubei, China, who arrived in the country Sunday, were taken to Jose B. Lingad Memorial General Hospital for treatment of diarrhea and abdominal discomfort but tested negative for COVID-19.
The two, who are relatives, will be returned to Athlete’s Village in New Clark City, in Tarlac to complete their 14 days of quarantine.
“We are checking on our repatriates twice a day to ensure that they are properly being cared for. We have been providing SIM and cell cards for those who don’t have mobile access within the facility,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said.
Domingo said health workers check on the vital signs and the condition of the people staying at New Clark City. He said activities are also being organized for the individuals who have to stay in their rooms as a precaution.
The DOH official also said the Philippines has 408 patients under investigation for COVID-19.
Most are in Metro Manila, Central Visayas, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Western Visayas, based on DOH’s real-time tracker.
The Philippines has had three confirmed cases of COVID-19, all Chinese citizens who traveled from Wuhan city, the epicenter of the disease.
As of Feb. 12, the Epidemiology Bureau with the help of the police has identified all 455 contacts of the first and second cases of COVID-19.
Of the 455 contacts, 277 (61 percent) have been interviewed and 44 contacts have been found to be symptomatic and admitted as patients under investigation.
On the third confirmed case, a total of 246 (34 percent) out of 731 contacts were traced, including co-passengers and individual contacts from hotels and hospitals.
Currently, 164 (22 percent) contacts have been interviewed, of which 149 were placed on home quarantine and 15 symptomatic contacts have been categorized as patients under investigation and admitted for isolation and monitoring.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III previously said that other Level 3 hospitals and laboratories in the Philippines will be equipped with test kits to reduce the turnaround time in detecting infected persons.
The WHO categorized the COVID-19 Health Event as “High Risk” regionally and globally, with a total of 43,103 confirmed cases in 24 countries.
Local transmission of the disease has been reported in Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia.
“We can already see that local transmission is happening in other countries. These developments are compelling reasons to prepare mitigation mechanisms for the possibility of community spread,” Duque said.
“We are continuously assessing the situation and crafting our own guidelines, based on available evidence, to combat the threat of the COVID-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government has started giving P10,000 cash assistance to overseas Filipino workers affected by the temporary travel ban due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The cash assistance was the immediate response of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to ease the burden of the would-be departing workers after the government imposed a travel ban to China, Hong Kong, Macao and now Taiwan.
Applicants for the aid are required to bring a valid passport, airline ticket and proof of employment and their valid contracts to OWWA.
OWWA acting director Gerardo Rimorin advised the workers to use the cash assistance wisely as it is still undermined when the government will lift the ban.
Hundreds of OFWs bound mostly for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were stranded at the Manila airport following the travel ban imposed by President Duterte as precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Philippine Airlines on Wednesday asked air travelers to arrive early at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to give them time to go through additional screening procedures being enforced at the airport due to the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19).
The Immigration’s Electronic Gate System or e-Gates at the airport for Philippine passport holders are temporarily disabled in view of the screening requirement.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said PAL international flight departing passengers must be at the
Manila airport four hours before their flights, and at least three hours for those who have PAL domestic flights.
“You are required to accomplish arrival cards and to undergo screening before going through the immigration counters,” Villaluna said.