MANILA - The Philippine health chief on Thursday said private hospitals in the country cannot refuse patients with a case of suspected novel coronavirus (2019-nCov), after the Philippines confirmed its first case of the dreaded virus in Manila.
"They (private hospitals) were already reminded that they cannot turn away (patients with 2019-nCov)," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told radio DZMM.
Duque said private hospitals in the country have already prepared isolation rooms after the health department released a directive for all medical centers on 2019-nCov.
Earlier Thursday, Duque confirmed a 38-year-old Chinese patient from the Chinese city of Wuhan -- the epicenter of the 2019-nCov outbreak -- was confirmed to be infected with the virus following a laboratory test in Australia.
The woman arrived in Manila via Hong Kong on Jan. 21. She is now in an undisclosed government hospital in the capital, the health official said.
Authorities have begun to track people who may have been exposed to the patient.
At least 23 other patients are under investigation for the virus and are still in hospital, while 5 have been discharged but are under strict monitoring, Duque said.
The 2019-nCoV has killed at least 170 and infected nearly 8,000, spreading from its epicenter in Wuhan, China to several countries in Asia, Europe, North America, and the Middle East.