MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday the Philippines is preparing for the “worst” amid the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus as the government guarded against its entry into the country.
All ports of entry are being prepared to keep the country free from the virus, Duterte said as local health authorities monitored 23 suspected cases.
“We are just preparing, maybe for the worst,” Duterte told reporters on the sidelines of the 69th founding anniversary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The President rejected calls for a travel ban to and from China, the country’s top trading partner, even as airlines restricted flights there on deepening fears over the spread of the virus.
Authorities earlier only barred travel to and from the Chinese province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected before it spread across China and to a dozen other countries.
Issuance of tourist visas on arrival to Chinese nationals in the Philippines have been put on a halt on Tuesday to help ensure that the country remains free of the pathogen.
READY TO REPATRIATE
Duterte assured Filipinos in Wuhan that the government is ready to repatriate them but noted that precautionary measures must be in place.
Some 50 Filipinos in the Chinese city have expressed desire to come home, Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go earlier said.
“We are always conscious of our citizens there. If they are going home, we are ready to ferry them back to the Philippines but all precautions must be in place,” Duterte said.
“Naawa naman ako. Puwede natin tulungan,” he added.
(I pity them. We can help)
Duterte’s spokesman Salvador Panelo earlier said the government would also review the possible repatriation of Filipinos in other countries where there are confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.