By Gillian M. Cortez and
Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporters

THE Philippines is considering a travel ban on South Korea, where more than 800 people have been infected with the deadly novel coronavirus, a Cabinet official said on Monday.

An inter-agency task force will “reassess the situation” and recommend an action, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told a briefing at the presidential palace.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said the novel coronavirus is the worst public health crisis facing the country (China), as new outbreaks continued to expand into South Korea and Italy, raising fears of a global pandemic.

The number of confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases have reached 77,150 in mainland China, bringing the global total to more than 79,000. The death toll has reached 2,620.

Health authorities said 27 of those deaths had occurred outside mainland China.

Major new outbreaks were also developing in South Korea, Iran and Italy, with dozens of confirmed cases and multiple deaths.

The Philippines has banned foreign travelers from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. It also banned foreign travelers from Taiwan but lifted it after Taiwan issued threats.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s government had also barred Filipinos from going to China and its two administrative regions, but later allowed Filipino workers, students and permanent residents to go there.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told the same briefing that there were no reports yet of any infected Filipinos in South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore confirmed the first case of a Filipino who had tested positive for the new coronavirus strain.

“The Filipino is now warded in an isolation room in one of Singapore’s hospitals,” it said in a statement. No other detail was provided by Singapore’s Ministry of Health.

The embassy said it was coordinating with the ministry and it was prepared to provide the needed help to the patient.

The Singapore government has advised Filipinos there to maintain vigilance and observe proper hygiene, among other precautions.

Those showing symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat and difficulty in breathing, have been asked to immediately consult a doctor.

Singapore has also advised against traveling to Daegu City and Cheongdo county in South Korea.

Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have agreed to step up cooperation in the region amidst the outbreak.

The countries will share information and best practices promptly, and boost capacity building for a decisive health response.

ASEAN member states and China on Feb. 20 held a special foreign ministers’ meeting on COVID-19.

“The Special Asean-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting also emphasized the role of risk communication and community engagement in ensuring that people receive accurate and timely information,” the Foreign Affairs department said in a separate statement.