A Philippine diplomat in New York has tested positive for the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the first recorded case at United Nations headquarters in the city, diplomatic sources said on Thursday.
The diplomat, who had last visited the UN on Monday, showed symptoms of flu the following day and saw a doctor.
“She got the call today that she tested positive for COVID-19,” said a letter from the Philippine mission.
“As of today, the Philippine mission is in lockdown, and all personnel are instructed to self-quarantine,” said the letter.
Also on Friday, classes in all levels were suspended in Batangas on Friday after the province confirmed its first COVID-19 case, a person who had a history of travel to London.
In announcing the class suspension, Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said the province needed to protect the welfare of its residents, especially its youth. No details about the patient were released.
Meanwhile, Mayor Joy Belmonte on Friday declared a state of calamity in Quezon City, which has five confirmed coronavirus cases.
She said the city council has passed a resolution allowing the use of the quick response fund by the city’s 142 barangays for emergency procurement.
Belmonte said she has called for a meeting with the Commission on Audit, the city’s budget officer and the village officers to ensure that the funds are used properly.
The Philippines has confirmed 52 cases of COVID-19 as of 7 p.m. Friday.
READ: PH new coronavirus cases increase to 64
At the UN, the Filipino lady diplomat works at the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee, which deals with legal matters.
About 3,000 people are employed at the towering riverfront UN headquarters. Numerous other diplomats from the 193 UN member countries come and go between their own missions in the area and the Manhattan UN complex. There have been more than 1,600 cases in the United States.
In a tweet, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the infected female diplomat, whom he described as “spritely” and “smart,” is doing well and taking doctor-prescribed medicines.
She tested positive on Thursday, shortly after celebrating her birthday with friends, and had just returned from Florida.
Consul General Claro Cristobal said all consulate officers and staff will undergo self-quarantine for the protection of the community.
“The consulate will work closely with concerned authorities to facilitate the resumption of its operations,” Cristobal said in a statement.
All transactions at the consulate are temporarily transferred to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., which is about a three-hour drive from New York City.
Meanwhile, Dr. Joel Abanilla, Philippine Heart Center executive director, said a part of the hospital was locked down when an 88-year-old woman with a travel history in Canada died due to COVID-19.
“It goes without saying that our in-patients are now afraid,” he said in an interview on radio dzMM.
“Had we known that she had COVID-19, we would have not admitted her,” he said. “We have high-risk patients, just like the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.”
He said the COVID-19 patient was initially diagnosed with cardiovascular disease on Feb. 26, but was later diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 11.
At least 13 rooms of a ward at the Philippine Heart Center were locked down with 39 medical staff under quarantine in a restricted area of the hospital.
Nine doctors, 19 nurses, medical technicians, and other medical staff had come in contact with the patient.
In related developments:
• The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office said it will use P420 million of its standby fund to help government efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, the PCSO said lotto draws and outlets’ operations will continue, but agents will be told to observe the social distance.
• The Gabriela Women’s Party on Friday urged the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to immediately release the circular detailing the policy on free COVID-19 testing as the number of local positive cases continues to climb.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said Philhealth should also lay down guidelines on the reimbursement of COVID-19 testing and screening expenses of Filipinos to soften the added health care costs, especially for minimum wage earners.
Brosas added that the government must give priority to designating more screening centers and quarantine facilities. She said the current Philhealth package for those under quarantine was “a dismal” P1,000 a day for a maximum of 14 days.
But Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor on Friday welcomed the announcement of the Philhealth to shoulder the entire treatment expenses of patients who are infected with COVID-19.
* UNICEF Philippines said it remains committed to working with the Philippine government and partners to stop the transmission of the virus and to keep children and their families safe.
“UNICEF Philippines has been fully supporting the government’s emergency response as early as the first few cases of COVID-19 were identified in the country,” the agency said. “Just recently, we provided tents to the Department of Health to support the management of COVID-19 cases requiring hospital care.”
DOH is further strengthening its capacity in hospital preparedness, rapid response, risk communication, and information dissemination with full support from UNICEF Philippines, the agency added.