President Rodrigo Duterte asked for Filipinos’ trust in government and cooperation in containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) following the sharp rise in confirmed cases worldwide.
“I call on our people to remain calm, vigilant and responsible and I also ask your trust and cooperation, support as we face the challenge. Let’s unite as one nation, this challenge can be overcome,” President Duterte said in a recorded message aired on state-run RTVM on Thursday morning.
Duterte said the government, together with the World Health Organization, medical societies, and partners in the private sector are addressing the problem and preparing for any eventuality.
He also assured Filipinos staying in China that the government is prepared to repatriate them anytime they wanted to return home.
“To our kababayans who remain in lockdown areas in China, I assure you that the government is ready to bring you home if you want. We won’t leave you behind,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.
As for the first batch of Filipino repatriates who are currently staying in the quarantine facility inside the Athletes’ Village at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, Duterte assured them that government is taking care of them.
Earlier, Malacañang said the government will shoulder the costs of tests, medicines, confinement, and all hospital-related expenses for those undergoing quarantine in government hospitals and facilities.
Government has also banned the entry of all foreign nationals from mainland China and its administrative regions Hong Kong and Macao as well as Taiwan. However, Filipinos and foreigners with permanent resident visas are allowed in the Philippines but will have to undergo quarantine.
Duterte acknowledged that it is “normal” to feel anxious, concerned, and afraid of the possibility of a local outbreak but reminded them to observe safety precautions to minimize the chances of being infected.
“Be clean. Wash your hands frequently, repeatedly. In every handshake, when you sneeze, cover your mouth and make sure you don’t contaminate other people. If you are coughing, wear a mask,” Duterte said.
He also urged Filipinos to be wary of false information about Covid-19 being spread to spark panic and paranoia.
“Be careful and listen to important information coming from the WHO. Don’t listen to rumors,” Duterte said.
Instead of believing fake news, Duterte reminded Filipinos to believe only information coming from reliable sources such as the WHO and government.
“Focus on government. Real information comes from government, not on rumors that have no other purpose but to instill fear among us,” he said in Filipino.
In an interview over radio dzBB, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo rejected criticism that Duterte considers the Covid-19 as a political issue.
“That’s not true because we don’t work that way. It’s always a health issue for us,” Panelo said.
There are three confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines, all of which are foreigners, according to the Department of Health.
There is no evidence yet of local community transmission in the country, health authorities said.
The death toll from Covid-19 increased to 1,367, nearly all of the fatalities in China, while the total confirmed cases worldwide reached more than 60,000, only about 500 cases were reported outside China.
The DOH said Thursday there are now 441 persons under investigation with the addition of 33 suspected cases of Covid-19 as of Thursday morning.
Data from the DOH also show 230 of them are currently admitted in different hospitals. Some 206 who tested negative for Covid-19 were discharged.
So far, two patients—both from China—have died.
Two of the three who tested positive for Covid-19 were discharged after recovery. The remaining one died while at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
Metro Manila has the highest number of admitted suspected cases at 80. Central Visayas follows, with 35 persons under investigation confined at medical facilities, while Central Luzon has 29.
Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said most of the persons under investigation are Filipinos. Among the foreigners under investigation for possible Covid-19 were Chinese, Americans, Japanese, and Europeans.
Domingo said the government is ready to address the possibility of local transmission.
Local transmission of the disease has been reported in Singapore, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia.
House leaders, meanwhile, commended the repatriation teams from the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs for successfully bringing home 30 Filipinos from Wuhan City.
House Resolution No. 711 honors the heroism, courage and great compassion of the following members of the DFA Health Emergency Response Team consisting of three Assistance to National Officers, namely Rowell Casaclang, Abdul Rahman Pacasum and Richard delos Santos from the Office the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, two members from the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai namely Mark Anthony Geguera and Sanny Darren Bejarin and the DOH medical team composed of five (5) members namely Dr. Neptali Labasan, medical officer at the DOH-Bureau of Quarantine and Dr. Oliver Macalinao of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Medical Hospital, nurses Rowell Divinagracia and Mr. Jay Julian and medical technologist Elmer Collong of the Philippine Heart Center.
“These brave individuals not only answered to the call of duty but exhibited a strong sense of compassion for our kababayan and nationalism that motivated them to volunteer their services and expertise to undertake this critical mission,” the resolution reads.
A leader of the House of Representatives on Thursday pressed of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to report on the compliance of its order to local governments to activate task forces to help Malacañang stop the spread of Covid-19 in their localities.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte noted that the DILG should update the public on the status of its two-week-old directive for all LGUs to create their own anti-COVID-19 task forces that would advise and guide their constituents on what precautionary measures to take; and to coordinate with the DOH on what medical protocols to initiate at the barangay level to help check the spread of this disease in their communities.