Police in Metro Manila on Wednesday said they had raided a clandestine COVID-19 clinic and arrested two Chinese nationals working there, the second Philippine operation in a week targeting an unlicensed coronavirus medical facility.
The authorities uncovered the facility, the Goldstar Medical Clinic and Pharmacy Corp., during a raid Tuesday afternoon at an office building in the Makati financial district after receiving complaints about medical waste piling up at the site, local police commander Col. Oscar Jacildo said.
“We were surprised about reports of medical waste being collected by the building’s housekeeping staff,” he told reporters. “We were wondering why there was hospital waste and then we discovered the COVID-19 clinic there.”
Authorities from the Makati Police Station’s Investigation and Detective Management Section confiscated vials of drugs that were labeled in Chinese and used to treat patients afflicted with the coronavirus, said officials who did not identify the medicines.
“We found four Chinese patients confined there. They said they were experiencing COVID-like symptoms,” said Maj. Gideon Ines Jr., a senior police official in Makati, according to the Manila Bulletin.
Southern Police District acting director Col. Manuel Peralta identified the suspects as David Lai, 49, and Liao Songhua, 41, according to national news agency PNA. The Makati City prosecutor’s office is conducting an inquest to determine if charges should be filed.
Last week, police raided a villa in the Clark Freeport Zone that was allegedly housing an unauthorized COVID-19 clinic and arrested two other Chinese nationals. The zone is the site of a former U.S. Air Force base.
After the May 20 raid on the underground clinic there, presidential spokesman Harry Roque expressed alarm over the presence of unregistered medical facilities catering to Chinese nationals.
“Only qualified physicians can practice medicine in the country and drugs must have the approval of the [Philippine] Food and Drug Administration,” Roque said at the time.
As of last year more than 200,000 Chinese nationals were working in the country, many of them employed by Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators, statistics from the immigration bureau show. Since September 2019, Philippine authorities have arrested and deported nearly 1,000 Chinese nationals illegally employed in online casinos in Manila and in Clark, officials said.
On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 18 new deaths caused by COVID-19, raising the national toll from the virus to 904. The department also confirmed 380 new cases were detected within the past 24 hours, bringing the total number in the Philippines to 15,049.
Around the world, more than 5.6 million people have been infected by COVID-19 and at least 350,000 had died as of Wednesday, according to the latest data compiled by disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Also on Wednesday, the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) advised Filipinos to keep sheltering at home because it said the country had not seen coronavirus cases “rapidly decrease” during the last three months.
“It is very important to stay at home for the public to prevent the further spread of the infection,” said Dr. Takeshi Nishijima, WHO’s technical officer for the Western Pacific region. “The number of newly recorded cases is not rapidly decreasing even after the strict implementation of the community quarantine.
“In the Philippines, we are seeing the number of new cases kind of stabilize. We are hoping it will decrease in the future. For that, I think we need to be prepared to continue what we [are doing] right now,” he told reporters during a virtual press briefing organized by the Philippine health department.
Earlier in May, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration moved to ease the COVID-19 lockdown, which had covered the main Philippine island of Luzon for months, to spur an economy battered by the ripple effects of the pandemic. Luzon is home to about 60 million Filipinos and the nation’s capital, Manila.
Duterte announced this week that he would not allow students to return to schools until a vaccine is available in the Philippines.
“I will not allow the opening of classes where students will be near each other,” the president told the nation during a televised address late Monday. “Unless I am sure that they are really safe, it’s useless to be talking about opening classes.”
“For me, vaccine first. If the vaccine is already there, then it’s OK,” news reports quoted him as saying. “If no one graduates, then so be it.”