THE PHILIPPINES on Thursday confirmed its first case of a new coronavirus strain that has killed more than a hundred in China and sickened thousands.
A 38-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan City, where the deadly virus originated, was confirmed to be infected with the new strain, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said at a press briefing, citing lab results from Australia.
The woman consulted a doctor in a state hospital on Jan. 25 after experiencing mild cough, the Health chief said. “She is currently asymptomatic, which means she has no fever, and no other signs and symptoms suggesting illness at this point.”
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 29 people had been investigated for the new virus strain, 18 of whom were in Metro Manila. Five have been discharged, while one died of pneumonia.
Rabindra Abeyasinghe, a World Health Organization representative, said at least 132 people have died, while more than 6,000 have been infected with the new virus strain.
Confirmed cases were recorded in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, United States, France, Taiwan and Vietnam, among others countries.
Mr. Duque said health authorities were working with the hospital where the patient was confined. “We are also implementing measures to protect the health staff providing care to this patient,” he added.
Mr. Duque said the agency “continues to guarantee the public that all necessary precautionary measures are being taken to halt the spread of the virus.”
“The DoH is on top of this evolving situation,” Mr. Duque said.
He said that travel from places in China other than Hubei province could be restricted.
Also yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it was counting on China to disclose the evacuation procedures undertaken by the US for its citizens there.
“China will tell us how the US evacuated its nationals.” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said in a social media post on Wednesday evening.
The Foreign Affairs department earlier said it was readying flights to bring Filipino workers from Hubei home.
There are about 300 Filipinos in the Chinese province, half of them in Wuhan City, according to the Philippine Consulate General In Shanghai.
Japan earlier offered to help the Philippines screen the new coronavirus strain. A government research institute near the capital can only check for the presence of coronavirus, but cannot identify the specific strain.
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. — Gillian M. Cortez