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50 OFWs in Wuhan homesick—Bong Go

Up to 50 out of the 150 Filipinos in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, want to come home, Senator Christopher ‘‘Bong’’ Go said Monday.

Go, talking to CNN Philippines, said their plight was discussed at a meeting he attended with officials of the departments of Health and Foreign Affairs.

“We are ready to send an airplane if we need to take them home from China. The problem is if China will allow it,” Go said in Filipino.

He added that it was important to make sure that the Filipinos are clear of the coronavirus before they are allowed to reenter the Philippines.

The Philippine Embassy in Beijing confirmed that none of the 150 Filipinos in Wuhan has been infected by the 2019 novel coronavirus that already killed 81 people in China.

“[There’s] no report of any Filipino in Wuhan infected by the novel coronavirus thus far. But they are advised to stay indoors and avoid contact with an infected person,” Philippine Ambassador Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said in a text message on Sunday night.

Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs said there are at least 150 Filipino nationals in Wuhan, which has been placed on lockdown in an attempt to contain the outbreak’s spread.

In a separate advisory, the DFA advised Filipinos to take necessary precautions and follow the advice from local health authorities in their areas.

As Wuhan is on lockdown, the Philippine Consulate in Shanghai has requested Filipino community leaders to provide them assistance.

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong also issued an advisory urging Filipinos in the territory to cooperate with the Hong Kong government, as it raised its response level to the highest “Emergency Response Level.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday also urged Filipinos abroad to take precautions.

The Palace on Monday said it has no plans yet of evacuating Filipinos based in Wuhan.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said that 11 patients in the Philippines are under investigation for possible 2019-nCoV infection as of Monday morning. All 11 had traveled to Wuhan.

50 OFWs in Wuhan homesick—Bong Go

Three of them—two in Aklan and one in Cebu—were cleared and sent home but eight were still confined in hospitals pending the results of their tests, the Health Department said.

Of the 11 patients, two were from Metro Manila, and three each were in Western and Central Visayas. Mimaropa, Northern Mindanao, and Eastern Visayas had one each.

Six of them are males and five are females.

The oldest person under investigation—a 76-year old man—is confined in Asian Hospital in Muntinlupa, while the youngest is a five-year-old boy from Wuhan City. He was confined in Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu and tested negative for nCoV.

Authorities were still waiting for the laboratory results of the others, Duque said.

Duque urged the public to take precautions by avoiding the consumption of raw meat, washing their hands frequently and using face masks.

He also advised Filipinos to avoid shaking hands since physical contact with others increases the risks of spreading the virus.

Several Chinese schools located in Manila City and Quezon City suspended classes on Monday amid fears of coronavirus, but Duque said there was no need to do so for now.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said private schools have a “higher degree of autonomy” than public schools to suspend classes, but she urged them to consult their respective local government units first.

The schools which suspended classes are the Hope Christian High School, St. Stephen’s High School and Uno High School, which said they were gathering travel details of their students and staff during the Chinese New Year break.

In related developments:

• Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko’’ Domagoso on Monday urged the public to avoid circulating unverified reports on social media that there is a confirmed case of the novel coronavirus at Metropolitan Hospital in Binondo, Manila. In a statement, Domagoso said that “no confirmed case of novel coronavirus at Metropolitan Hospital.’’

• The Trade Department filed notices of violations to some 18 establishments found to have overpriced surgical masks and N95 masks, since the eruption of Taal Volcano on Jan. 12. The establishments face penalties of up to P300,000 per store. Health officials urged the public to use face masks to guard against the harmful effects of ashfall—and as a precaution against the spread of viruses.

• A lawmaker on Monday said government agencies concerned should have not allowed flights from Wuhan, China to land in the country despite the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Chinese city. Rep. Lawrence Fortun of Agusan del Norte said authorities must be able to impose the strictest protocols amid the threat of the virus, which has claimed the lives of some 81 people in China and infected others in many countries. “Why were we still allowing flights from Wuhan to land in the Philippines in the first place? Why did we have to wait for their announcement of lockdown before deciding to prohibit entry of flights coming from a place already confirmed to be the epicenter of the outbreak of a fatal virus that has turned epidemic?” Fortun said.

• Major airlines in the Philippines offered a refund and rebooking of flights to travelers going to China. “Please be advised that effective immediately, passengers of Philippine Airlines with confirmed tickets to and from Xiamen, Jinjiang, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macau issued on or before 24 January 2020 for travel between 24 January until 29 February 2020 may request for rebooking, rerouting or refund with waiver of penalties,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

The Cebu Pacific Air, on the other hand, offered passengers with flights between the Philippines and Shanghai, Canton, Beijing, Shenzen Xiamen, Hong Kong, and Macau booked on or before Jan. 24, 2020 and traveling until Feb. 29, 2020, to rebook their flights, obtain a refund in full, or store the value of their tickets in a fund for future use. With Othel V. Campos and Maricel V. Cruz

READ: WHO says no global crisis yet; Duque piqued

READ: Major SARS-like outbreak feared amid third death outside of China

READ: Public warned: No cure for n-CoV; only hygiene

Topics: coronavirus outbreak , Christopher ‘‘Bong’’ Go , Department of Health , Department of Foreign Affairs
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