Filipinos should not spread false and unverified information about, and not panic over the novel coronavirus plaguing China and other countries, especially since there is no confirmed case in the country yet, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Monday.
"The viral spread of false news can cause a lot more societal injury," Duque said in a press briefing in Malacanang.
In recent days, social media posts and forwarded messages suggested that supposedly confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are being kept under wraps in some hospitals in the country.
“This misinformation can be more viral than the virus that we all are guarding against. This is an ‘infodemic’ and we don’t want to be party to its spread,” Duque said.
“The rumors are careless because they are saying that these (patients) are allegedly positive for coronavirus."
The Health Secretary pointed out that the Philippines does not even have the capability to confirm such cases. “That’s why we’re sending them (samples) to Australia,” he said.
So far, none of the tests requested by the Philippines yielded positive for the new strain of coronavirus.
While 39 potential cases were initially probed in the country, only 11 patients are being looked into further. All are foreigners of Chinese, German, Brazilian and American nationalities who traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the respiratory contagion.
Duque said specimens of the patients are being tested at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. If the tests yield positive results for non-specific pan coronavirus, the specimens will be forwarded to Melbourne for confirmation.
Of those currently being monitored, one involved a 78-year-old man confined at the Asian Hospital in Muntinlupa City.
The Asian Hospital released a statement on Monday to dispel rumors circulating through text messages and on social media purportedly "about a patient case with confirmed 2019-nCov" there.
Assuring that "there is no confirmed 2019-nCov patient case within Asian Hospital and Medical Center," the health facility said it is fully-equipped and capable of handling patients suspected of infection.
It reminded the public to believe only official statements from government.
Ospital ng Muntinlupa also issued a statement to point out that it is not among the hospitals in Metro Manila reported to have handled suspected cases of the novel coronavirus.
"To avoid confusion and panic among patients and clients of the hospital, we would like to announce that there is no 'person under investigation' for coronavirus at Ospital ng Muntinlupa," the notice reads.
Duque reminded the public to practice proper hygiene and other precautions to avoid being infected with the novel coronavirus and other related illnesses.