PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night assured the public government will be transparent on the issue of the 2019 novel coronavirus-acute respiratory disease (nCoV) as he said “everything is well” and that “there is nothing to be extra scared of.”
The new virus, which originated from China and has spread to at least 20 countries since last month, has so far killed 427 persons and afflicted at least 20,400 persons.
It is the Philippines which recorded the first death from nCoV outside China. The fatality was a Chinese male. One other confirmed case is a Chinese woman still confined at the San Lazaro Hospital.
The President made the statements after presiding over a briefing on the nCoV in Malacañang attended by some Cabinet members and some experts from the Department of Health and the World Health Organization.
“Everything is well in the country. There is nothing really to be extra scared of that coronavirus thing although it has affected a lot of countries but in … You know one or two in any country is not really that fearsome. And in the Philippines, we only have two cases … But they were Chinese, it’s imported. It did not originate from here. It was not a native of the Philippines but rather it was an imported one,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was also present, said the foreigners are both Chinese.
The President said the government will not hide anything and has not hidden anything about the actual state of the virus and the situation in the country, amid allegations that the Chinese government has been keeping some details about the actual situation in China.
“Nothing is being hidden. We will not, this I can assure you, this government will never hide anything. If it says that you are going to die tomorrow because of this — it’s a contagion all over, we will tell you that. If it would cost your life, lives, we will not hide that.
Why should we? It’s a reality. Whether you admit it or not, you have to bury the dead. So what is there to hide?” Duterte said.
Questions about the transparency of government circulated after the DOH announced there is a second confirmed case of nCoV in the country and the 44-year-old Chinese male involved has died.
The person, who was from Wuhan, was the companion of the 38-year-old woman from Wuhan who is the first confirmed case of nCoV in the country.
The President said that instead of being hysterical, the public should be more vigilant in preventing the spread of the virus by observing proper hygiene or going to the hospital for treatment or even quarantined if one suspects that they have the virus
Duterte expressed confidence the nCoV problem will eventually be resolved, with the advancement in science and medicine.
He also said preventive measures have been adopted, like the imposition of a travel ban on those coming from China and its special administrative regions, and the barring of Filipinos from going to those areas.
The President also said the Chinese are not to be blamed for the virus as he advised against being xenophobic.
“This kind of mentioning the Chinese and blaming them, it’s like xenophobia,” he said.
“China has been kind to us. We should show the same favor to them. Stop this xenophobia thing,” he also said.
Duterte said while waiting for a treatment for the virus, he ordered the DOH to set up a quarantine facility, or even an isolated room in government hospitals, where nCoV patients or those under a 14-day quarantine period could stay.
The President said the government has yet to identify an actual quarantine facility that would be used for Filipinos who would be returning from China’s Hubei province. He said government is eyeing the drug rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, which could house up to 10,000 people, but the local government is opposing the move.
“I will expropriate. I will confiscate your building… In times of emergency… you confiscate.
Then you make it a hospital. Bring in the equipment and you stay there inside the building where the egress and ingress is controlled,” he said.
The Philippine Ports Authority said cargo ships coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau are allowed to enter Philippine ports but their crewmen and other passengers are not allowed to disembark.
Jay Daniel Santiago, PPA general manager, said majority of Philippine cargoes originate from hub ports located in China and its regions because Philippine ports are considered feeder ports.
“We cannot afford to ban the entry of international ships to our shores in the midst of this nCoV ARD scare as doing so will surely paralyze our supply chain as most of our imports and exports go to the hub ports located in China and its SARs,” Santiago said.
Some 300 Chinese passengers who were stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals were able to fly back to their country on board other commercial flights after Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific canceled their flights to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said some 120 Chinese passengers boarded a Cathay Pacific flight back to Hong Kong as early as 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Another 86 Chinese passengers were flown back to Pudong, China on board China Eastern Airlines on Tuesday morning while 96 Chinese passengers boarded China Southern flight CZ 398 past 9 p.m. on Monday. – With Myla Iglesias and Osias Osorio