DOH warns public against going to Wuhan to avoid novel coronavirus threat

By Analou De Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday advised the public against traveling to Wuhan, China for the celebration of the Lunar New Year (LNY) this weekend.

Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN) Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (CZAR DANCEL / MANILA BULLETIN)

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made the pronouncement amid the threat of the 2019 novel coronavirus which likely originated in Wuhan, China. LNY will be celebrated on Saturday (Jan. 25).

"They have to avoid Wuhan. They shouldn't be going to Wuhan and they have to be updated with regards to a possible rapid spread to other cities . We have to be on alert and on the lookout for the latest updates coming from authorities," said Duque in a media forum in Malate, Manila.

Meanwhile, the health chief said that members of the Philippine boxing team, who are set to go to Wuhan, China for the Asia and Oceania Olympic boxing qualifiers, should keep their ears "stuck to the ground as to what are the current developments" with regards to the novel coronavirus.

Travel restriction

At the moment, Duque does not see the need to impose a travel restriction amid the threat of the novel coronavirus, saying that such a restriction is "still being discussed that is still being studied."

"We don't see that in the short-term. But since Dr. Rabi has disclosed that there are still blind spots in so far as this particular coronavirus is concerned, we just have to be on alert and take all the recent information as they available by the Chinese Ministry of Health," Duque said in a press conference last Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Quarantine Director Ferdinand Salcedo said they are reminding the airlines that "universal protective kits should be available any time onboard."

"We will also be issuing an audio regarding this virus -- that passengers who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should report to the Bureau of Quarantine upon arrival at the airport," he said.

Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said China is now screening passengers from Wuhan. "Before they leave Wuhan, they screen them. If anybody is ill, they don’t let them aboard the plane. So, both sides -- the Chinese and our side -- quarantine officers are working."

Abeyasinghe assured the public that the World Health Organization (WHO) is working very closely with the Chinese authorities "to get a better understanding" of the novel coronavirus.

"There is still some information that we don't know....We are in the stage of trying to understand how severe this infection is. As soon as we have access to that information--that is reliable and verified--we will share that," he said.