MANILA—The Department of Health on Friday released more information on the first case of the new coronavirus in the Philippines, mentioning the names of the airlines she took and the hospital where she is confined.
“I don’t think there is any harm in disclosing. It puts to rest a lot of speculation,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo told reporters during a press conference.
Domingo confirmed that the 38-year-old woman who came from Wuhan city, China, the epicenter of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD), before traveling to the Philippines, is confined at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.
“We disclosed the hospital because every other hospital in Metro Manila were panicking,” Domingo said, referring to the statements released by private hospitals after the health agency announced the first case on Thursday. “To be assured that nothing is being hidden from them, we thought it was better to disclose.”
Domingo said the patient was with her partner while she was touring the Philippines, specifically Cebu province and Dumaguete city before flying to Manila. The companion is also confined and was admitted in San Lazaro Hospital as a person under investigation (PUI).
PUIs are patients who traveled to Wuhan recently and showed signs of illness. While the woman who tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus had mild cough when she was admitted, she is no longer showing symptoms.
Domingo also assured the public that San Lazaro Hospital is “well-equipped” to contain the virus.
“They have been handling infectious cases for the 400 years and everybody of course in the hospital knows that the patient is there,” he said of the government hospital, which was founded in the late 1500s.
With two more PUIs added to the DOH list, there are now three patients in isolation at San Lazaro Hospital -- the first patient with the new coronavirus, her partner, and another foreigner who was recently admitted.
There was another PUI confined at the same hospital but he died last Wednesday amid pending test results. The DOH is still waiting for the lab results to determine if the deceased patient has the new coronavirus or if he died because of complications from HIV-AIDS.
Domingo also confirmed that the patient who tested positive for the 2019-nCoV ARD arrived in Cebu from Hong Kong on January 21 onboard a Cebu Pacific flight. She and her partner then took a CebGo flight to Dumaguete and from there took a Philippine Airlines flight to Manila.
In a statement on Friday, Cebu Pacific said it is working closely with the DOH. “We are in the process of contacting passengers seated in the vicinity of the positive NCoV patient and are taking the necessary precautions to inform them so they can have themselves checked in case they show flu-like symptoms,” the company said.
“The cabin crew and pilots on affected flights have also been informed and show no symptoms of illness,” it added. “The aircraft used for both flights have been pulled-out of the line and are undergoing thorough disinfection.”
The DOH said its contact tracing procedure is being implemented. Its personnel will also be visiting the resorts that the patient stayed in.