Duterte OKs P2 billion for coronavirus fighters' gear

Jamaine Punzalan and Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2020 11:22 AM | Updated as of Feb 04 2020 11:50 AM

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President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the allocation of some P2 billion for the protective gear of health workers seeking to contain the novel coronavirus that claimed its first fatality in the Philippines this weekend, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Tuesday. 

Each set of gear costs P1,500 and includes goggles, mask, gloves, head gear, and apron. The supplies are expected to be good for 3 months and will distributed to public hospitals, Duque told DZMM. 

"Kailangan protektado sila, hindi rin sila makahawa (they need to be protected too, they shouldn't infect others)," he said of health workers. 

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The funds will also be used to buy a vehicle to ferry suspected coronavirus patients from provinces to government-referred hospitals, as well as boost the capabilities of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), said Quezon 4th District Rep. Helen Tan. 

A lead center for infectious diseases in Muntinlupa, the RITM is the country's lone facility for testing for coronavirus, she noted. 

"Maraming kailangan... The President said by all means, kayo nakakaalam susuportahan niya," Tan, who chairs the House health committee. 

Authorities, she said, were also eyeing a 10,000-bed drug rehabilitation treatment facility in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija as quarantine area for suspected coronavirus patients. 

The death toll from the virus stood early Tuesday at 425, most of were from the city of Wuhan and the rest of surrounding Hubei province, believed to be the epicenter of the outbreak that has been under lockdown for almost 2 weeks.

A 44-year-old Chinese who arrived in Manila from Wuhan last month had died of the new coronavirus, making him the first fatality outside of China, authorities said Saturday. 

The man who died was a companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, who was the first to test positive for the virus in the Philippines. 

Authorities are tracing the whereabouts of the people who might have into close contact with the duo, and checking about 80 others for possible coronavirus infection, said Duque.