President Rodrigo Duterte, closely monitoring developments in the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic which rippled from Wuhan, China last December, has declared a state of public health emergency, underscoring the Code Red alert level raised during the weekend by the Department of Health.
The DOH confirmed the country is now at the localized transmission stage following another case of Covid-19—the wife of a local patient earlier diagnosed with the disease.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, in a text message to Manila Standard, said: “It (state of public health emergency) has been declared...after considering all critical factors with the aim of safeguarding the health of the Filipino people.”
With a total of six confirmed cases in the country, the Health department had recommended to President Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency to facilitate the mobilization of resources and case processes—including procurement of critical logistics and supplies—and to intensify reporting.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the public health emergency declaration “would be crucial to facilitate the sufficient and immediate access to funding, particularly for local government units, and ease processes on procurement, mandatory reporting, mandatory quarantine, and travel restrictions, among others.”
Code Red in effect
“It would also put to rest questions on whether an automatic price freeze on medicines and medical supplies may be made by the DOH and the Department of Trade and Industry,” he added.
Duque said Code Red, Sub-Level 1 was now in effect with the confirmation of the country’s first case of local transmission in the 5th Covid-19 case, a 62-year-old man now suffering from severe pneumonia.
READ: PH confirms first virus case
Once there is sustained community transmission or an increasing number of local cases whose links cannot be established, the strategy will shift from intensive contact tracing to community-level quarantine or lockdown, and possible suspension of work or school.
READ: Duterte plans school shutdown
Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco was the earliest to respond to the Code Red alert, announcing the suspension of classes in all levels on Monday (March 9) amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Duque, however, said it was still “premature to consider at this point” raising the alert to Sub-Level 2 as there is no sustained community transmission.
The 59-year-old wife of the 5th case, Duque said, was currently in a “stable” condition after experiencing cough. Both of them are confined at the state-run Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
The husband, who is also suffering from hypertension and diabetes, frequented a Muslim prayer hall in San Juan which has since been temporarily closed for disinfection. He has no history of recent travel abroad.
“The DOH is currently exhausting all its efforts to identify others who have come in contact with the confirmed cases to ensure that this localized transmission does not progress to community spread,” Duque said.
“We will be prioritizing testing of those symptomatic individuals found to have had close contact with the confirmed cases. We urge those who may have interacted with the confirmed cases within the past 14 days to immediately call the DoH hotline (02)8-651-7600 local 1149-1150 for appropriate referral to a health facility,” he added.
The first three Covid-19 cases in the country involved Chinese nationals with history of travel to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. One of them died of severe pneumonia on Feb. 1 while two recovered and have returned home.
The 4th case, a 48-year-old Filipino man, had traveled to Japan.
Deloitte Philippines confirmed that the patient was an employee. Neo Property Management Inc. said the building that houses Deloitte, Six/NeO, had been closed down for thorough disinfection.
The local government of Cainta, on the other hand, has started distributing face masks, disinfectants, and vitamins in the village where the couple (5th and 6th cases) live.
Meanwhile, a sanitation team from the Bonifacio Global City is now conducting massive spraying and disinfection as a preventive measure against the spread of Covid-19 in the business district.
“Frequent sanitation and disinfection of BGC malls and buildings, public transportation utilities, parks, and common areas are being conducted, as well as temperature checks in entrances,” the BGC administration said in a statement.
The BGC management is working closely with the Taguig City government and DOH to ensure all protocols are followed to manage the situation in light of the recent development in which a worker at a BGC-based firm was tested positive for the disease.
The firm—Deloitte Philippines, engaged in business processing outsourcing—confirmed that one of its employees got infected with the deadly virus.
“The colleague is currently in hospital receiving treatment and further tests, and Deloitte is supporting the colleague and family in every way we can,” it said.
The company said that “the health and safety of our people, our clients, and out community is our highest priority, and our immediate response has been to take all necessary actions to manage the situation.”
“Deloitte Philippines continues to comply with the instruction and directions from the Department of Health. All necessary actions were promptly taken to inform those who might have come into contact with the colleague for the appropriate checks and provide any possible form of support,” it added.
In related developments, Malacañang called on the public to stay calm amid new cases of Covid-19, urging the people to rely only on verified information.
“We call on everyone to be the voice of calm and sobriety,” Panelo said in a statement.
He said the DOH, which has been following established international protocols, continues to monitor persons under investigation. Teams have been formed to do contact tracing.
“The Health department, along with other agencies of the government, likewise provides our people with the latest updates relative to the impact of this global health scare,” the Palace statement said.
Panelo also asked the public to avoid sharing “unverified and unofficial information” that may only cause undue panic among the population, as well as be “scrupulous” in reading materials that may help them be informed of Covid-19.
At the same time, Vice President Leni Robredo asked the public not to panic, and just be calm and alert amid the increasing number of Filipinos getting infected with Covid-19.
“I know that many of you are getting worried with what you see on the news and read everyday about the Covid-19. The number in the list of those affected is increasing,” she said in her video message to Filipinos.
In Makati City, Rep. Luis Campos Jr. is pushing for support for private companies hit by Covid-19 to assure job security for their workers.
“If the government is going to extend temporary relief to private companies reeling from the Covid-19 outbreak, it should do so in return for the beneficiaries pledging to minimize labor cutbacks,” he said.
“We are all for the grant of provisional reprieves to travel and tourism-related businesses that have been hit hard by the global health emergency, but we would prefer that the concessions be tied directly to the job security of their employees,” he added.
He reacted to the government’s initial plan to waive airport “landing fees to help commercial carriers, such as Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, that have been distressed by international travel restrictions and the sudden plunge in passenger traffic.
“For instance, it might be viable for establishments to keep all their workers and simply put them on job rotation, instead of permanently laying off some while retaining others full-time,” he said.
In Navotas City, Tiangco called on the Department of Education to automatically pass all students this school year.
The mayor also declared class suspension on March 9 for all levels, both public and private.
“The Department of Health yesterday (Friday) released an update stating we now have two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and both are Filipino. The virus can be spread easily, especially in crowded places like schools,” he said.
“In light of this, I urge DepEd to automatically grant passing grades to all students so they do not have to attend classes anymore. We must take all necessary precautions to protect our people, especially our children, from this disease,” he added. With Joel E. Zurbano, Rio N. Araja, Vito Barcelo, and Jun DavidREAD: Six Filipinos aboard ship COVID-infectedREAD: World Bank/ADB funds eyed for COVID-19 response
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