Philippines says 63 nationals, all abroad, are so far found positive for COVID-19

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2020 04:07 PM

People wearing masks to prevent contracting the coronavirus wait for a signal at a zebra crossing at Dongseong-ro shopping street in central Daegu, South Korea February 21, 2020. Kim Hong-Ji, Reuters

MANILA — The Philippine health department said Monday 63 Filipinos, spread in four different countries, have so far tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), although two have already recovered.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference that the biggest group of 59 infected Filipinos are those aboard the virus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship moored in Japan, of whom two were eventually cleared of the disease.

Two other cases have been reported in the United Arab Emirates, one in Hong Kong, and one in Singapore.

The new virus strain, believed to have originated from the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, have already contaminated more than 78,000 people globally. The death toll has so far topped the 2,500 mark.

China has the most number of cases at 77,041, according to the World Health Organization, followed by South Korea with 602 cases.

Vergeire, who is Assistant Secretary for Public Health Services, said the remaining 57 Filipino patients from the Diamond Princess ship are currently admitted in hospitals in Japan. So far, there have been a total of 691 confirmed cases from among the estimated 3,700 passengers and crew of the ship.

“For the Hong Kong case, this is a domestic helper in Hong Kong who was taking care of a person who turned out to be positive also,” Vergeire said. “She did not have history of travel in the past two weeks. She is now in stable condition and being taken care of by government of Hong Kong.”

In the UAE, "the first (Filipino) case is a 43-year-old male who went to the hospital because he had trouble breathing." Vergeire said the patient was already intubated when he was admitted, which means, "he’s on a respirator now.”

Vergeire said the patient’s condition is still unstable, according to the Philippine Embassy in the UAE.

The other Filipino patient in the UAE, a 34-year-old male, "is now in stable condition,” she said.

As for the case in Singapore, the health department said it involves a 41-year-old male Filipino who is a permanent resident of Singapore.

“He does not have travel history from China. And he is now confined in one of the facilities in Singapore and as reported, he is in stable condition.”

Singapore has, so far, reported 89 COVID-19 cases; 13 in the UAE; and, at least 70 in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

Since the epidemic began in Wuhan, only three cases of COVID-19, all imported, have been recorded in the Philippines. All three are Chinese nationals who traveled from Wuhan before arriving in the country. One died while the other two recovered.

The Philippines repatriated 30 overseas Filipino workers from Wuhan, and is poised to fetch more than 400 Filipinos from the Diamond Princess. Only those who test negative for COVID-19 will be brought home, the health department said.

While the Philippines has not had local transmission of COVID-19, its government assured it is ready for such an eventuality.