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Philippines: President Declares Health Emergency over COVID-19

Jojo Rinoza and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila
2020-03-09
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A Philippine pupil at West Central Elementary School in Dagupan City wears a face mask while attending class, March 9, 2020.
A Philippine pupil at West Central Elementary School in Dagupan City wears a face mask while attending class, March 9, 2020.
Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET on 2020-03-09

The Philippine government declared a public health emergency across the country on Monday as the number of COVID-19 cases more than tripled to 20 overnight and the novel coronavirus spread across the globe, infecting more than 105,000.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation No. 922, declaring the outbreak constituted an emergency requiring a whole-of-government response, after confirming the first locally transmitted case over the weekend.

“There is hereby declared a state of public health emergency throughout the Philippines due to COVID-19,” the order said.

It stated the public emergency would remain in effect until recalled by Duterte.

All schools in Manila and nearby suburbs were canceled beginning Tuesday because of COVID-19, according to health officials.

On Monday, the health department confirmed 14 new cases, a jump from just six reported as of the weekend. All were Filipinos.

Four of those diagnosed had traveled to the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan or Taiwan.

One death has been recorded in the Philippines – a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan. His death on Feb. 1 was the first known COVID-19-related fatality outside of China.

“This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 20,” said Maria Rosario Vergeire, the assistant health secretary.

She said all of those diagnosed have been admitted to hospitals across the capital region. In addition, 25 others are waiting for test results, meaning the number of confirmed cases could rise, health officials said.

The sudden spike in cases likely was caused by heightened surveillance, according to health officials.

Two women have pulled down the masks covering their faces while sitting on a bench in Dagupan City, Philippines, March 9, 2020. (Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews)
Two women have pulled down the masks covering their faces while sitting on a bench in Dagupan City, Philippines, March 9, 2020. (Jojo Rinoza/BenarNews)

On Monday, Duterte held an emergency meeting with his cabinet focusing on the unfolding crisis.

“Rest assured that the (health department) is maximizing all channels, including coordinating with the Philippine National Police, other stakeholders and government agencies, to immediately identify and isolate if needed, those who may have had contact with the confirmed cases,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at the meeting.

Regional increase

Neighbor Malaysia announced 18 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its total to 117, while Indonesia reported 13 new cases to add to the six previous infections, according to government figures from both countries.

One of the newest victims in Malaysia had traveled to Iran with a business colleague from Feb. 20 to 27 and developed symptoms on March 5, testing positive on Sunday. He was admitted to the isolation ward at a hospital in Negeri Sembilan outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the government on Sunday began implementing its travel ban announced last week on foreigners from regions of Italy, Iran and South Korea hit hard by the virus. On Feb. 5, the government banned all travel to and from China.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade warned citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali, the main tourist destination for Australians.

“The Indonesian government has confirmed a number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases,” it said in a statement. “There is limited availability of testing and infection control facilities and the risk of transmission of the virus is increasing. Critical care for managing Australians who become seriously ill, including in Bali, is likely to be significantly below the standards available in Australia.”

Tia Asmara in Jakarta and Nisha David in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

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