The Philippines has no confirmed case of COVID-19!
This was the reassuring revelation of Malacanang and the Department of Health (DoH) at the daily media briefing Friday at the Palace.
“I wish to reiterate that we do not have any confirmed case of the COVID-19 in the country as of the moment. But I need to mention this time and again, it’s perhaps not a question of if but rather a question of when. So that’s why we cannot afford to let our guards down despite the fact that we still don’t have local transmission, and in fact, all three cases have been clearly established to be imported ones,” Secretary Francisco Duque told reporters during the “Laging Handa” press briefing in Malacañang Palace.
Chief presidential Legal Counsel and Spokesman Salvador Panelo confirmed Duque’s claims but emphasized that all protocols are actively implemented by the various agencies to make sure the virus is contained.
Duque made revelations as he reported that as of Friday, 14 February, there are still 191 patients under investigation admitted in various health facilities, while another 260 PUI have already been discharged.
Duque also said 252 PUI have tested negative for COVID-19 while 186 have pending test results from the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM).
“Two of those that tested positive were discharged, and the other one expired. While there is no recorded case, again, of local transmission in the country, we can already see this happening in nearby countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, among others,” he added.
Duque said this development compels them to gear up for a possible community spread.
“The Department of Health is at the forefront of assessing the situation and making evidence-based decisions to ensure that we keep the threat of the COVID-19 at bay,” he said.
Amidst all these, President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the public for calm and unity as the nation faces a serious threat from the highly contagious virus, asking the people to shun disinformation and observe strict personal hygiene.
“I call on our people to remain calm, vigilant, responsible and I also ask your trust, cooperation, and support as we face the challenge. Tayo ay magkaisa, together as one nation… this challenge can be overcome,” President Duterte said in his message to the nation.
In the same press briefing, Duque said initial reports on tentative signs COVID-19 is stabilizing is premature.
Duque made the clarification so as not to give false hope for people to expect the crisis is soon over.
“Well, I don’t want to be a ‘KJ’ (kill joy), but it’s premature,” Duque said.
“We have seen some initial trending that it’s not consistent, so we have to wait for more data to come in and to establish a trend that’s more consistent, whether it’s plateauing, or is it going down, etcetera. So, still the situation remains fluid, he said.
Taiwan gets the nod
As these developed, Malacañang Friday night confirmed the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) has resolved to lift the travel restriction imposed on Taiwan, effective immediately, following a meeting held in at the Palace.
Secretary Duque who led the group called for an immediate meeting regarding related issues on the travel ban imposed against Taiwan.
Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo, said with the lifting of the travel ban, travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa.
“The lifting of travel restrictions for Taiwan has been agreed by the members of the IATF by reason of the strict measures they are undertaking, as well as the protocol they are implementing to address the COVID-19,” Panelo said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Panelo said the IATF will likewise evaluate other jurisdictions, including Macau, for the possible lifting of the imposed travel ban after their submission of the protocol being observed by their government which prevents potential carriers of the said virus from entering and departing their territory and enable others to determine the recent travel history of any traveler exiting their borders.
“The Office of the President likewise stresses that any resolution relative to travel restrictions in connection with the COVID-19 shall be subjected to regular review by the IATF,” Panelo said.
Earlier, Sen. Richard Gordon asked the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Health to reconsider its resolve in halting flights from the East Asian country amid the spread of COVID-19.
The senator insisted that the Philippine government should consider humanitarian reasons over the travel ban against Taiwan and should not be included in the list of countries with travel restrictions as it was not part of China — the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
While there may be 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, it is not really among the countries badly hit by the disease, which is why no other country in Asia, aside from the Philippines, issued a travel ban against it,” he said.
At least 157,487 Filipino migrant workers are employed in Taiwan making the Philippines the third-largest source of overseas workers in the country, Gordon noted.
“We are aware of the sentiments of the Taiwan government vis-à-vis the travel ban and all of these will be considered in our deliberations, and hopefully come up with the consensus not just to address specifically the issue on Taiwan having been included in the travel ban, but also a more broad consideration of factors that will help the task force formulate a set of criteria or parameters in so far as inclusion or exclusions is concerned.” Duque said.
Were doing all we can
Meanwhile, Sen. Bong Go assured the public the government is not relenting on the effort to address the COVID-19 scare.
Go, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Health, said in an ambush interview the Department of Health is doing its best to prevent the local transmission of the COVID-19.
with Hananeel Bordey