The Department of Health on Monday said people should refrain from shaking hands and bussing on the cheeks as precautions against the novel coronavirus that is causing illness in China.
“Avoid shaking of hands this time,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a press conference in Malacanang. “At the most, fist bump,” he said in jest.
Duque said the traditional “beso-beso” or bussing of cheeks should also be avoided for now as the DOH is looking into possible cases of the novel coronavirus in the country.
There are already over 2,700 cases of the novel coronavirus around the world, mainly in China, where 81 deaths have so far been reported.
Duque said when coughing or sneezing, people should cover their mouths, while those who are sick should stay at home.
Duque also advised people against eating uncooked food.
“Make sure that the preparation is adequate. It should not be half-cooked or have meat that is pinkish,” he said.
Duque said coronaviruses that result in severe illnesses came from animals, as in the case of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Like the two, the novel coronavirus is believed to have been transmitted to humans from animals such as bats or snakes. It first spread at a live animal market in Wuhan, China, where wild and exotic species are consumed as delicacies.
“Rule number one: Never eat raw meat,” Duque said. “A lot of illnesses start with animals or zoonotic transmission.”
“Yang mga kilawin, tigil na muna natin yan. Maraming mikrobyo kasi yang mga yan,” he added.
(We should stop eating raw dishes. There are a lot of microbes there.)
Asked if people should also avoid delicacies such as sashimi (fresh raw fish or meat), Duque said that is alright, provided they are from established restaurants that "have a reputation of being sanitary.”
He said that while bats are not being eaten in the Philippines, some eat snakes, rats and lizards.
“You just need to cook it well since coronaviruses are sensitive to heat. If you cook it at 53 degrees centigrade, they will be neutralized,” he said.
There are no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines, but health authorities are currently looking into the condition of 11 foreigners who traveled to Wuhan before arriving in the country.