MANILA - Filipinos in the epicenter of the mysterious new coronavirus have the option to return home or remain in China, Philippine authorities said Tuesday as the death toll from the illness continued to climb.
Those who wish to come home will be placed in a health facility for monitoring, while Filipinos who wish to stay in China are urged to follow local authorities' public health activities, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
"During the inter-agency meeting, members agreed to ensure support for overseas Filipinos in China as well as comprehensive transport and quarantine plans for overseas Filipinos from Hubei province who wish to voluntarily return to the Philippines," he told reporters.
"The DOH (Department of Health) will ensure all Filipinos in other countries will receive sufficient info and health support thru telemedicine."
Repatriated Filipinos will be quarantined for 14 days, according to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay.
The Chinese National Health Committee has also assured other nations that Beijing is prepared to assist their citizens, he added.
"They have assured us that they are ready to address any concerns that any Filipino may have, including the need to repatriate if they do wish to come home," he said.
"Everything we do in that zone we have to coordinate with Chinese authorities."
The inter-agency body on managing infectious diseases also proposed temporary restrictions on issuing visas for travelers from Hubei province, and issuance of advisories discouraging non-essential travel to China, Duque said.
The new strain of the virus has so far claimed 106 lives in China and infected some 4,000 globally since emerging in Hubei's capital Wuhan last month.
The DOH urged the public to remain vigilant, practice good hand hygiene and proper cough etiquette, maintain distance from those with new coronavirus, cook food properly, and adopt a healthy lifestyle.