'Fake news' hampers cremation of Philippines' first novel coronavirus fatality

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2020 08:15 AM | Updated as of Feb 06 2020 08:41 AM

'Fake news' hampers cremation of Philippines' first novel coronavirus fatality 1
Women wearing face masks use their phones in Manila, Jan. 31, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA — False online information spooked some funeral parlors into backing out of a commitment to cremate the Philippines' first fatality due to the novel coronavirus, the Department of Health said Thursday. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said he ordered his agency to instead find a public cemetery that would cremate the remains of the 44-year-old male fatality from Wuhan in central China, believed to be the virus' origin. 

Duque earlier said a funeral parlor in Quezon City agreed to do the cremation after a Chinese-Filipino business community backed out of its promise to shoulder the procedure. 

"Iyong mga umu-oo, bandang huli umaatras... Walang batayan iyong kanilang [pangamba] kundi iyong mga takot na nakikita daw nila sa kanilang social media, iyon ang itinuturing nilang totoo," he told radio DZMM. 

"Mahirap na iyong trabaho natin, lalo pang humihirap dahil iyong virus of disinformation, mas mabilis kumalat," he said. 

(Those who said yes backed out in the end. Their concern had no basis other than fear from what they see on social media, which they treat as the truth. Our job is already difficult and becomes even more so because of the virus of disinformation that spreads fast.) 

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The fatality's 38-year-old female companion also tested positive for the novel coronavirus and remained under observation, said Duque. 

Authorities as of Wednesday have traced 203 out of nearly 300 people who came in close contact with the 2 virus patients. 

A third patient -- a 60-year old woman -- had returned to China before a second set of tests confirmed that she was also positive for the virus, the health department said Wednesday.