MANILA — Authorities are monitoring offshore gaming hubs that employ mostly Chinese expatriates for signs of a new coronavirus strain, the interior department said Wednesday.
There has been "no feedback" so far on possible infections, Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III told DZMM.
After the Lunar New Year holiday last Jan. 25, some Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) workers returned from China, Densing III.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ban on inbound travel from Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, on Jan. 31. It was later expanded to include the entire mainland China and special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.
POGO workers are typically housed in one building, where they have their own doctor and are barred from leaving, Densing said, citing information from a Filipino-Chinese tipster.
"Nagsu-surveillance po ngayon. So far wala pa tayong feedback sa ating kapulisan kung mayroon nga bang nagkakasakit sa loob," he told radio DZMM.
(We are conducting surveillance. So far our police has not yet given us feedback on whether there are workers who got sick.)
The new coronavirus strain has killed nearly 500 people and infected some 24,000 since it was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Authorities over the weekend said a Chinese coronavirus patient from Wuhan died in Manila. His female companion, who also tested positive for the disease, remains under observation.
There are roughly 138,000 Chinese workers in the internet-based POGO business, according to the initial estimate of an inter-agency task force last year.
Beijing last year urged Manila to crack down on casinos and offshore gaming firms that illegally employ its nationals.
Chinese law bans its citizens from engaging in "any form of gambling" including online and those that are based overseas but cater to Chinese nationals, China's embassy in Manila said. Gambling is not banned in the Philippines.