JAPAN has offered to help the Philippines screen a new strain of coronavirus that has killed more than a hundred in China and sickened thousands more, the Health department said on Wednesday.

A government research institute near the capital can only check for the presence of coronavirus, but cannot identify the specific strain, ABS-CBN News reported, citing Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

The Bureau of Immigration has stopped issuing Philippine visas on demand to Chinese tourists at the Manila airport amid an outbreak in China.

The Civil Aeronautics Board has also suspended direct flights from Wuhan province, where the virus had originated.

More than 5,000 people, mostly Chinese, have been infected with the new virus, while more than a hundred people have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The Department of Health said there were 24 Chinese nationals from Wuhan, China under investigation in the country, but there were no confirmed cases yet of the new strain.

Confirmed cases were recorded in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, United States, France, Taiwan and Vietnam, among others countries.

“As of today the number of persons under investigation is 23 and the total discharged is four,” Mr. Duque said at a briefing.

Health authorities said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) was examining 18 specimens and six more have been sent to Australia for testing.

The 2019 coronavirus strain comes from a family of viruses whose hosts show flu-like symptoms that can be either harmless or fatal. The new virus was said to have come from Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China and was transmitted from animals to humans.

Mr. Duque said Japan would give the Philippines a primer that can help it determine whether a virus has the same genetic code as the strain from China, eliminating the need to consult Australian experts.

Meanwhile, a feverish three-year old Chinese kid from Hong Kong was being examined in Iloilo City, according to agency’s Center for Health Development in Western Visayas.

“We are closely coordinating with our referral hospital as to the status of the patient,” said Jane R. Juanico head of the Infectious Disease Department of DOH 6. She said the child had not been classified as a person under investigation.

Eleven Chinese nationals were also being monitored in Aklan province, according to Cornelio V. Cuachon, Jr., chief of the Aklan Provincial Health Office.

Four of the 11 had a history of contact with a patient who had tested positive for the new coronavirus strain in Hong Kong, he said.

Also yesterday, the Bureau of Customs said it was keeping an eye on imported goods from China such as used clothing and animal products that could transmit the virus.

“We’re also coordinating with the Department of Health,” Customs Assistant Commissioner Vincent Philip P. Maronilla said at the same briefing.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs department said it was readying flights to bring Filipino workers from Hubei home. They would still have to undergo containment procedures of the Chinese government, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez said in a group message.

There are about 300 Filipinos in the Chinese province, half of them in Wuhan City, according to the Philippine Consulate General In Shanghai.

“About 50 so far have indicated a desire to leave,” Mr. Meñez said, adding that most of them were from Wuhan.

Justice Undersecretary Markk L. Perete said the Immigration bureau had created a team tasked to process the Filipinos’ return.

“The team has undergone briefings conducted by the Bureau of Quarantine and will be provided with the necessary protective gears,” Mr. Perete separately told reporters. — Gilian M. Cortez, Charmaine A. Tadalan and Emme Rose S. Santiagudo