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Coronavirus could dent Q1 and Q2 growth by 0.3 point, central bank chief says

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Passengers wearing protective masks, following confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, arrive at the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. -- REUTERS

A CORONAVIRUS outbreak that has killed hundreds and sickened thousands more in China could dent growth in the next two quarters by an average 0.3 percentage point each, the central bank said yesterday.

The tourism sector was likely to be hit the hardest, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters on the sidelines of a Management Association of the Philippines event in Taguig.

The figures were based on preliminary estimates, he said, downplaying the effects of the virus that “is less deadly than the previous ones.”

“We think only the first two quarters will be affected,” Mr. Diokno said, citing a sensitivity analysis by the central bank.

The government is targeting economic growth of 6.5-7.5% for 2020 until 2021. The economy grew 5.9% last year, the slowest in eight years and missing the government’s minimum 6% goal.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III this week said they were keeping this year’s growth target despite the coronavirus outbreak and Taal Volcano’s eruption last month.




Mr. Diokno said the coronavirus outbreak in China won’t have a significant effect on the Philippines given its minimal trade with China. “We are not an exporting country,” he said in Filipino.

More than 1.6 million Chinese tourists visited the Philippines in the 11 months through November last year, making China its second-biggest tourism market after South Korea, according to data from the Tourism department.

Fitch Solutions Macro Research said in a report on Wednesday the outbreak could dent economic growth for Asian economies in the first half.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) late Wednesday said a second overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong was under quarantine there after her employer tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“Just like the first case, the Filipino is healthy and asymptomatic but needs to undergo a 14-day quarantine based on Hong Kong’s protocol,” the agency said in a statement.

CRUISE SHIP
In a separate statement yesterday, the agency said another group of 10 people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

This was in addition to the first 10 confirmed cases reported on Wednesday that included a Filipino. The cruise ship, docked at the Yokohama harbor, had 538 Filipinos on board.

The Department of Health on Wednesday said a 60-year-old Chinese woman who had returned to China before a second set of tests confirmed that she was positive was the third case of coronavirus in the Philippines.

The first was a 38-year old Chinese woman who was being monitored, and the second was her partner, a 44-year-old Chinese man who had since died.

Meanwhile, 177 Chinese nationals who were in the Philippines before a travel ban was imposed had returned to China through a chartered flight provided by the Chinese Embassy, the Immigration bureau said yesterday.

The number is apart from about 300 Chinese nationals bound for China, Hong Kong and Macau but had been stranded at the Manila airport, Immigration spokesperson Krizia Dana N. Sandoval said.

The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency after the outbreak that started in Wuhan City in China spread to more than 20 countries, including the Philippines. — Luz Wendy T. Noble, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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