THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) released a memo on Monday discouraging events that will gather large crowds amid the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) threat. In its health advisory, DoH said it “strongly urges the public to avoid attending, participating in, and organizing events that draw a huge number of attendees.” DoH also called on organizers to cancel planned events to lessen the risk of virus transmission. In a briefing on Monday, Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique C. Domingo clarified that the advisory is not a directive that strictly prohibits all large gatherings, but a public warning.

DoH reported 314 persons under investigation (PUI) in different parts of the country as of February 10. “We are seeing a rapid increase in the transmission rate of the virus globally. In response, DoH has strengthened its capacity in preparation for the possibility of local transmission. All DoH hospitals are equipped to cater to the influx of patients and are following strict infection control protocols to contain the virus,” Mr. Domingo said. According to the World Health Organization, more than 900 deaths have been recorded as of Monday from 40,000 confirmed cases.

Following the DoH advisory, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio announced the cancellation of activities lined up for the 83rd Araw Ng Davao celebration in March. “Our game plan is to eliminate activities that are possible maka-transmit (to transmit) the virus like mass gatherings,” she said in a press conference Monday. She said the Thanksgiving Mass will be the only highlight for the celebration of the city’s founding anniversary, and all preparations made for this year will be executed in 2021. The scheduled holidays on March 1 and 16 will remain in effect. Ms. Carpio noted that the city’s health care facilities have limitations and cannot possibly carry hundreds of sick individuals all at the same time. “Because of these limitations, our plans for us Dabawenyos is to ensure that we do not get the infection. Please read all available information on how you can keep you, your children and the entire family healthy,” she said. The mayor also announced a ban on all welcome and send-off groups at airports, seaports, bus terminals, and other transportation hubs. “Doon na sila mag-we-welcome sa kanilang mga bahay. Lahat ng iyakan at goodbyes sa bahay na gagawin (They can do the welcoming at home. All the crying and goodbyes, do those at home),” she said. The new policy has been discussed with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which manages the Davao International Airport, she said. For the holding of this year’s Ironman 70.3. triathlon, which will be the third staging in the city, Ms. Carpio said they have yet to make a decision. “We will still have to discuss what is the best thing to do.” — Gillian M. Cortez and Maya M. Padillo