By Mario Casayuran
The government is on top of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) scare, said Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go and other key national government officials on Tuesday (Feb. 4).
At Go’s Senate health committee public hearing on the issue, concerned officials and health experts explained how the government could step up its efforts and ensure that the virus will not spread further throughout the country.
Key government officials invited to the hearing mentioned the precautionary measures already in place to protect Filipinos from the spread of the virus.
In his opening statement, Go assured the public that the government has been on top of the situation and is committed to assist Filipinos and the rest of the world in laying down measures to mitigate the impact of the 2019-nCov ARD on the worldwide community.
“Since Day 1, the whole Duterte administration has said that it has been on top of the situation and is doing everything it can to address the issue. The President, and even a key official from the World Health Organization, have commended the efforts of this government in responding to this worldwide health concern,” he said.
Go posed questions to the government officials and experts regarding the nature of the disease, severity of the problem, its impact on the country including the economy, and the best way forward for the government to mitigate its effects.
Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III gave updates on the novel coronavirus in the Philippines.
“Eighty patients are under investigation in the Philippines, 67 are currently admitted and isolated, 10 discharged under straight monitoring,” Duque said in his presentation.
Duque said the fatality rate of 2019-nCoV ARD is much less than SARS and MERS-CoV but it is more easily transmissible.
Duque also clarified the mode of transmission of the disease, saying “Ang ating pinaka-available na info ay (Our readily available information is that) coronavirus can survive and stay alive for as long as ten hours on inanimate objects like keyboards, tables, and fomites (objects likely to carry infection such as clothes, other items).”
DOH also mentioned that President Duterte has approved the budget needed for the procurement of personal protective equipment for around 5,000 health workers who will need them amid the coronavirus threat.
As for the economic impacts, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that the economic costs of the infection on the economy would most likely be centered on the tourism sector, but that “it’s too early to estimate the economic impact of the novel coronavirus.”
To counter the identified economic impacts, Dominguez said that the Department of Tourism (DOT) would further strengthen the promotion of local destinations.
While these developments might slightly restrain economic expansion, Dominguez said they are standing by their gross domestic product growth projection of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for 2020.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea also said President Duterte has expanded the travel ban to include travelers to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau amid the nCoV threat.
He said the President “has also ordered the establishment of repatriation and quarantine facility for novel coronavirus.”
Medialdea also said the establishment of quarantine facilities is still being studied.