By Gillian M. Cortez, Reporter
Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporter
and Genshen L. Espedido

A 44-YEAR-OLD Chinese man who died of severe pneumonia in the Philippines had tested positive for the new coronavirus strain, the first coronavirus-related death outside China, the Department of Health said on Sunday.

The patient was from Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said at a briefing.

The Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board said it was temporarily banning non-Filipino travelers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, hours before the death was announced.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency as the new deadly coronavirus strain that came from China spread to more than 20 countries, including the Philippines.

WHO cited the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.

There are more than 14,000 confirmed cases worldwide, and about 300 people in China have died, according to Chinese and World Health Organization data.

The vast majority of the cases are in China, while about 100 cases have been confirmed in at least 23 other countries.

The man traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan via Hong Kong, with a 38-year-old Chinese woman who also tested positive last week, Mr. Duque said.

Both were admitted at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila on Jan. 25. Before he died, the man experienced fever, cough and sore throat.

The Chinese woman was in stable condition but was still in quarantine and being monitored, Mr. Duque said.

The agency said 36 people had been investigated for the novel coronavirus strain. Twenty-four patients had tested negative, while 10 were discharged but still being monitored, it said.

Also yesterday, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Eddie V. Monreal said a commercial plane from Hong Kong had landed in Manila on Sunday morning.

Filipinos were allowed to enter the capital provided they undergo self-quarantine for two weeks, but the plane was sent back with the foreign passengers.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace said President Rodrigo R. Duterte would impose a temporary travel ban on foreigners who come directly from China, Macau and Hong Kong. It won’t apply to Filipinos, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.

The ban is “geared for the safety of our countrymen and will last until the danger of the dreaded disease has ceased,” he added.

Filipinos coming from these places must undergo a two-week quarantine. Travel of Filipinos from the Philippines to China, Macau and Hong Kong will also be restricted.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said the agency was “ready to implement further policy changes relating to foreign travel.”

He said they have a team of immigration officers who have undergone medical and safety training who will process the repatriation of Filipinos from Hubei province.

The Tourism department was coordinating with the travel sector to ensure the ban was fully enforced. The agency issued at the weekend guidelines for the hotel industry in handling guests amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, senators called on agencies to beef up quarantine measures.

“We need to step up our quarantine measures and safeguard our people,” Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said in a statement. He said the travel ban should last until the outbreak becomes under control.

“As a goodwill gesture, we can offer to extend the visa of Chinese visitors who were already here before the crisis and who don’t want to go home to avoid catching the disease,” he said.

Mr. Duterte would lead a meeting with an inter-agency task force to discuss the health guidelines to be followed, Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, his former aide, said in a separate statement.

Senator Francis N. Pangilinan asked the government to track all suspected patients and ensure they were quarantined.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III, meanwhile, proposed to create an inter-agency body that will update the public about the status and impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The body will consist of representatives from the Health, Tourism, Trade and Finance departments.

House Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano urged the Health department to coordinate with local governments and congressional representatives to help provide “timely and easy to understand information” on the virus.

“We have social media to help inform us, but the information that we are sometimes getting are confusing because they are unverified and do not come from official channels,” he said. — with Arjay L. Balinbin