MANILA - The Philippines will launch a hotline for Filipino migrant workers in China who wish to relay their concerns over the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), a Palace official said Thursday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be responsible for the hotline, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said as the Philippines confirmed its first case of the virus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
"We will also create a coronavirus hotline to assist the OFWs and other Filipinos residing in China for virus prevention and countermeasures," Andanar said in a statement.
"We will continue to serve our overseas Filipino workers (OFW), and will coordinate with Chinese authorities for repatriation efforts, as needed, to assist our nationals in China," he added.
Some Filipinos in China have expressed desire to come home amid the global outbreak of the virus, which has killed at least 170 and infected nearly 8,000 people across China, other parts of Asia, Europe, and North America.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night said the government is ready to repatriate them but noted that precautionary measures must be in place.
“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.
APPEAL FOR CALM
Andanar also appealed for sobriety over Manila's first confirmed case of the 2019-nCoV.
"With the first confirmed case of the 2019-Novel Coronavirus, we ask the public not to panic and to remain calm as the government, especially the Department of Health, is on top of the situation," Andanar said.
"Let’s continue to remain calm and heed the advisories of the DOH and the rest of the government on the matter..." he added.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed Thursday the Philippines' first case of the virus, a 38-year-old Chinese patient from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The woman arrived in Manila via Hong Kong on Jan. 21, and is now in an undisclosed government hospital in Metro Manila.
Andanar assured Filipinos that stricter security measures would be implemented in all ports of entry in the country to prevent the spread of the virus.
"With the continuous inflow of travelers coming from affected areas in China, we will continue to conduct necessary stringent customs, immigration, and quarantine measures to prevent the disease from spreading within the country," he said.
"We advise everyone to observe all health and preventive advisories issued by the DOH on the matter... Please remain vigilant and coordinate with your local barangay health centers should you observe symptoms associated with the 2019-nCoV," he added.
Several senators on Thursday called on the Palace to bar travelers from China to better prevent the entry of those infected with the virus.