By Ellson Quismorio
In hindsight, the failure to immediately impose a ban on the entry of visitors from Wuhan, China to the Philippines in light of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) threat was a major lapse, Magdalo party-list Rep. Manuel Cabochan III said.
“In a crisis management standpoint, that was a costly error,” Cabochan, an independent member of the House of Representatives, said on Tuesday (Feb. 4).
Wuhan in Hubei province, China is said to be the origin of 2019-nCoV, a virus that causes a respiratory disease that currently has no vaccine against it nor treatment.
Despite the local spread of the virus already being international news, a plane carrying over 100 passengers from Wuhan was still allowed to land at Kalibo International Airport last Jan. 23.
Kalibo is the gateway to Boracay, a popular tourist destination. Local authorities were quick to send the tourists back to Wuhan.
The Philippines so far has two confirmed 2019-nCoV cases, both of whom are Chinese nationals. One of them, a 44-year-old male, died last Feb. 2.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was first fatality from the virus recorded outside of mainland China.
Cabochan, a critic of the Duterte administration, described the lapse as a case of “misplaced priorities.”
“Diplomatic relationship, if I may call it (which I think is an overstatement), was placed before the health and safety of our people… na sa paniwala ko ay mali (and that, I think, was wrong).”
The former Navy lieutenant was referring to the good bilateral ties between Manila and Beijing under the Duterte administration.
President Duterte has since ordered a temporary ban on travelers coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
There is as yet no confirmed case of local transmission of 2019-nCoV.