MANILA (UPDATE) - A Chinese woman tagged by the Philippines as the first of its three confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus acute respiratory disease has recovered and was already discharged, a health official said Monday.
"The first case has already tested negative twice, and has in fact been discharged," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said of the 38-year-old patient in a press briefing.
While he is aware about the patient's release from confinement last Saturday, Domingo said he has no information if she has flown back to China.
According to the official, the woman, who arrived in the country last Jan. 21 from the Chinese city of Wuhan via Hong Kong, was tested again last week and had two subsequent results that found her negative for the 2019-nCoV.
The recovery of the first patient follows a similar finding on the country's third confirmed case, a 60-year-old Chinese woman, who, while also visiting the Philippines, initially tested positive and then later yielded negative for the virus. The third patient flew back to China on Jan. 31.
The first patient's companion, a 44-year-old Chinese man labeled as the Philippines' second confirmed case, died on Feb. 1 after suffering from pneumonia. He was the first nCov-related fatality outside of China.
As of Monday, more than 900 people have died due to the novel coronavirus, while at least 40,000 others have been infected in several countries, mainly in China.
The Philippines' cumulative total for "persons under investigation" (PUIs) as regards the epidemic has risen to 314, including the three confirmed cases.
Of whom, 261 are admitted in health facilities while 48 were already discharged.
So far, 109 tested negative for the virus, while 202 others are still waiting for results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
While the DOH has identified all 441 contacts of the 38-year-old patient and her partner, contact tracing is still ongoing for those who were exposed to the 60-year-old patient.
“A total of 224 (56%) out of 403 contacts were traced, including co-passengers and individual contacts from hotels and hospitals,” Domingo said of those who came in close proximity with the third confirmed case.
Of the 224, eight were categorized as PUIs as they showed symptoms and subsequently admitted in hospitals for isolation. Another group of 147 were interviewed and placed in home quarantine.
The health department assured the public it has strengthened its “capacity in preparation for the possibility of local transmission” as reports show an increase in the new coronavirus' transmission rate globally.
As of Monday, only “imported” cases of 2019-nCoV or patients from China have been observed in the Philippines. There is no local transmission of the virus yet, although overseas Filipino workers have tested positive in other countries.