Tracing in full blast; Dumaguete contacts of China couple with 2019-nCov confined in hospital

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 03 2020 09:59 AM | Updated as of Feb 03 2020 10:13 AM

People line up to purchase face masks in Bambang, Manila on January 30, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Authorities are monitoring more individuals after the Philippines recorded its first new coronavirus-related death on Saturday, a health official said Monday.

As of Saturday, authorities are monitoring 52 patients under investigation, of which 10 have been discharged, said Dr. Ferchito Avelino, director of the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau. He did not give further details.

Three persons in Dumaguete, who encountered the Chinese couple positive for the new strain of virus, have been admitted to a government hospital, Avelino said. The DOH has also traced persons the couple came in contact with in Manila, he added.

Airlines earlier said they are tracing the couple's fellow passengers from Hong Kong to Cebu, Cebu to Dumaguete, and Dumaguete to Manila.

The DOH also expanded its case definition to include persons who recently traveled from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, according to Avelino. It previously considered only those who came from China's Hubei province, where the virus originated.

"Any persons coming from those areas and they are sick, then they are considered as persons under investigation (PUIs)," Avelino told ANC's Early Edition.

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Government hospitals are facing a "deluge" of patients but tertiary hospitals around the country are capable of managing persons with infectious disease, he added.

"What is important is that hospitals should be able to collect specimens required and sent immediately to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa," Avelino said.

The Philippines on Sunday prohibited travel to and from China following its first reported case of fatality related to the new coronavirus, while airlines have limited their flights to Beijing. The death is the first outside China. 

"We have the international health regulation and we are a member of the WHO. All decisions will have to be in discussion with the WHO," Avelino added.

"As a person working on epidemiology, I think our response was calibrated based on the situation and based on rational decision."