By Argyll Geducos and Analou De Vera
The Philippines on Monday was officially placed under a State of Public Health Emergency following the confirmation of local transmission of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
This developed as the Department of Health (DOH) revealed Monday afternoon that the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines has increased to 20. Four of the new cases were announced late Sunday night, while the 10 other cases were announced Monday afternoon.
Based on Proclamation No. 922, signed by President Duterte on March 8, the declaration of a State of Public Health Emergency was made to mobilize governmental and non-governmental agencies to respond to the threat.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a whole-of-government response aligned with the Four-Door Framework for COVID-19 of the DOH and the efforts of all concerned government agencies and LGUs,” the President said in his Proclamation.
Duterte added that such declaration would address the COVID-19 threat, including but not limited to mandatory reporting, intensify government response and measures, and enforce quarantine and disease control prevention measures.
It would also capacitate agencies and local government units (LGUs) to immediately act to prevent loss of life, utilize appropriate resources to implement urgent and critical measures to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19, mitigate its effects and impact to the community, and prevent serious disruption of the functioning of the government and the community.
Under the Proclamation, all government agencies and LGUs were enjoined to render full assistance and cooperation and mobilize the necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the COVID-19 threat.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was also authorized to call upon the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other law enforcement agencies to provide assistance in addressing the disease.
Meanwhile, all citizens, residents, tourists, and establishments owners were urged to follow the law and comply with directives and advisories to be issued by the DOH and other appropriate government agencies to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all.
In a press briefing Monday, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo urged the media to publish all government announcements regarding the COVID-19.
“May we request and urge all media outlets to kindly publish all the statements made by Secretary Duque and all the bulletins issued by (the DOH) so that our countrymen will know how to react to the present crisis,” he said.
“All media outlets, which means all television stations, radio stations, and newspapers,” he added.
According to Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas has agreed to air the government’s COVID-19 infomercials and public service announcements both over radio and TV.
On Friday, the DOH confirmed the first case of local transmission of COVID-19 with the confirmation of the first Filipino who tested positive despite not having a history of travel to countries with confirmed cases, nor exposure to a patient.
A day later, Duque raised the country’s COVID-19 alert level to Code Red-Sublevel 1, a “pre-emptive call” to ensure that the entire government and its agents, along with its healthcare providers, can prepare for possible COVID-19 upticks.
On Sunday evening, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Philippines jumped to 10.
The DOH said the four new cases were tested on Saturday, March 7, and the results came out on Sunday, March 8.
The DOH said the 7th case involves a 38-year-old Taiwanese man.
“The patient has a history of contact with a Taiwanese foreign national who visited the Philippines and tested positive for COVID-19 in Taiwan. The patient has no history of travel outside of the country and his symptoms started last March 3,” the DOH said.
Mayor Abigail “Abby” Binay said all the people who may have come in contact with the Taiwanese man are all asymptomatic.
Over the weekend, Binay ordered city health personnel to locate the hotel staff, associates, and all others whom he may have come in contact with during his stay in Makati City.
“Thankfully, with the exception of the Taiwanese national who was confirmed positive with COVID-19, all the rest did not show symptoms,” she said in a statement.
“However, they have been instructed to undergo strict home quarantine. The MHD continues to monitor their conditions.”
Binay said the pro-active measures were taken over the weekend to determine if there was extensive contamination.
According to the local government, the Taiwanese man with COVID-19 was previously confined at a private facility, and has since been transferred to the RITM.
Binay said she has ordered the city’s COVID-19 Task Force to ensure that all residents, visitors, and establishments in the city will follow the preventive measures enumerated by the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO).
History of foreign travels
The 8th case, meanwhile, is 32-year-old Filipino who has a history of travel to Japan within the past 14 days, the DOH said. He started showing symptoms of respiratory illness on March 5.
The 9th case is an 86-year-old American male with pre-existing hypertension. He has a history of travel to United States of America and South Korea. He started manifesting symptoms on March 1.
On Monday, Marikina City Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the city.
The mayor said an 86-year-old male resident was one of the four confirmed cases announced by the DOH Sunday night. He said the male patient is a resident of Barangay Marikina Heights who has a travel history to South Korea.
Following the confirmation of the lone case in the city, Teodoro suspended the Palarong Pambansa 2020 set to be held in Marikina in May.
The 10th case is a 57-year-old Filipino with no history of travel outside of the country.
“He was reported to have had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. However, the DOH is currently investigating details of his exposure,” the Health department said.
The St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City said that one of the four new patients – a 57-year-old Filipino – who tested positive for COVID-19 was initially admitted at their health facility.
“St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City…has screened and isolated a patient who turned out positive for COVID-19,” it said in a press statement.
Earlier on Monday, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte confirmed that a COVID-19 case has reached her locality.
Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto confirmed on Monday that a Pasig City resident has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently confined at a private hospital located in another city.
He also said that another patient, who is not a resident of Pasig, is now confined at The Medical City located in Barangay Ugong, Pasig.
Sotto said the two patients were among four new COVID-19 cases reported by the DOH late Sunday night.
“[The] DOH is currently investigating all the cases and gathering patients’ information from respective hospitals. DOH is also currently in coordination with concerned local government units and the Centers for Health Development for localized response and implementation of infection prevention and control measures,” said the Health department.
The DOH urged individuals who will be contacted by its surveillance teams to “fully cooperate” in the department’s investigation and contact tracing.
“We have been preparing for the possibility of localized transmission in the country. Now that there are confirmed cases of localized transmission, DOH and the Inter-agency Task Force are now implementing pre-planned measures to respond to the situation,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Personal preventive measures
He called on the public to continue practicing personal preventive measures such as proper hand hygiene, social distancing, and cough etiquette.
“In the meantime, let us refrain from visiting public places and/or attending mass gatherings. DOH is exhausting all its efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19,” said Duque.
“I am calling for your cooperation in this trying time. Only through concerted effort at the community level will we be able to succeed against the threat of the disease,” he added. (With reports from Jel Santos, Joseph Pedrajas, Chito A. Chavez, and Jhon Aldrin Casinas)