China travel ban 'vital' in preventing 2019-nCoV outbreak in PH: health expert

Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2020 11:09 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2020 11:37 PM

MANILA - Imposing a travel ban to and from China is important in fighting a possible novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak in the Philippines, a health expert said after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the first case of the virus in Manila on Thursday.

Health reform advocate Tony Leachon said just one patient with confirmed 2019-nCoV "can create a problem."

"For example, nakapasok ang isang positive na may coronavirus, ina-isolate mo 'yun kasi nakakahawa eh. Isang estudyante pumasok sa klase, 50 'yung kaklase, [kapag] umuwi sa bahay, magmu-multiply 'yun," Leachon told radio DZMM.

He said preventing patients with cases of the 2019-nCov is vital since the virus has a "multiplier effect."

"Since itong virus na ito eh bago...hindi mo alam ang galaw nito eh. Kaya aligaga and World Health Organization (WHO) tungkol dito," said Leachon.

He recommended a travel ban not only to the Chinese city of Wuhan -- where the 2019-nCov outbreak started -- but also to the country of China itself.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said they would only recommend a travel ban to Hubei province where Wuhan is, citing "possible repercussions" with China.

Leachon however said there is a problem with the health chief's suggestion since a patient with the coronavirus can go to the Philippines from another province or city in China.

"Kung sa Hubei province lang tayo magli-limit, parang Maynila o Quezon City, iba ang exit mo. Kunwari ang exit mo Shanghai o Beijing, close proximity ang Beijing at Shanghai [sa Hubei], pwede magbiyahe siya doon.

He said a patient with the virus can take a car from Wuhan to Shanghai, then take a flight to Manila from there. 

"Tapos hindi natin na-detect 'yon dahil hindi Wuhan o Hubei ang pinanggalingan, paano mo maco-contact tracing 'yon?" Leachon said.

Several senators have urged Malacañang to "immediately" impose a ban on individuals traveling from China after a Chinese woman became the country's first case of the 2019-nCoV in the Philippines.

The 38-year-old patient from Wuhan had arrived in Manila via Hong Kong on Jan. 21.