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Virus watch: 2 PH maids in HK isolated

/ 05:32 AM February 07, 2020

Two Filipino maids quarantined in Hong Kong for exposure to the new coronavirus spreading from China are healthy and asymp­tomatic, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

A DFA statement about the second maid came late Wednesday, after news reports broke earlier in the day in Hong Kong about the first Filipino maid who was in quarantine for possible infection.

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According to the reports, the first maid’s 39-year-old male employer died on Tuesday due to complications of the viral infection.

The man’s wife and two children were reportedly also placed in quarantine, while his brother and mother, who live on a different floor in the family’s apartment building, were under observation after testing positive for the virus.

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The maid’s employers had traveled to Wuhan, capital city of the central Chinese province of Hubei and epicenter of the outbreak that has already killed 563 people and infected more than 28,000 others in China and spread to more than two dozen other countries.

Just following protocol

“Just like the first case, the [second] Filipino is healthy and asymptomatic but needs to undergo 14-day quarantine based on Hong Kong’s protocol,” the DFA said in its statement on Wednesday night, quoting a report from the Philippine Consulate General in the semiautonomous Chinese city.

The DFA said the consulate was coordinating with local authorities to “extend immediate assistance” to the two maids.

The two maids in Hong Kong were actually the second and third Filipinos to be quarantined for exposure to the new virus. The first Filipino to be reported as having tested positive for the virus was a crew member of a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. Twenty people, including the Filipino, have been transferred to hospitals in the port city.

Japan now has 45 virus cases and Hong Kong, 21.

A potential fourth Filipino virus case was reported on Thursday, with the Department of Labor and Employment saying a 58-year-old Filipino maid died in Dubai recently. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the maid, a native of General Santos City, had tested positive for a strain of the coronavirus but it was unclear whether it was the same pathogen that is spreading from China.

Local cases still 3

Local cases in the Philippines remained three as of Thursday—a Chinese couple from Wuhan who arrived in the Philippines in December and a 60-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, who arrived in late January.

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The 44-year-old man from Wuhan died on Saturday, while the woman, who is 38, was recovering in the hospital, according to the Department of Health (DOH). The third case had recovered and returned to China on Jan. 31, the DOH said.

With help from the Philippine National Police, the DOH is tracking down the other passengers on the flights taken by the three Chinese nationals in traveling to and within the Philip­pines.

More than 200 have been traced and 15 of them have been found to have symptoms, but only one has been put in quarantine.

As of Thursday, the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) had located 48 of 193 passengers of the Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL) domestic flights taken by the Chinese virus carriers. The DOH is handling the contact tracing of other passengers on the international flights that took them to the Philippines.

Three passengers on a Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu to Dumaguete City tracked down by the CIDG showed “signs and symptoms of the respiratory infection,” the PNP said.

It said three passengers on a PAL flight from Dumaguete to Manila also showed symptoms.

Call to others

Brig. Gen. Bernard Ba­nac,­ spokesperson for the PNP, called on other passengers on the three flights—Cebu Pacific 5J 241 on Jan. 20 and 21; Cebu Pacific DG 6519 on Jan. 21; and Philippine Airlines PR 2542 on Jan. 25 to contact the PNP or the DOH immediately.

The DOH is also trying to trace people who have interacted with the three Chinese nationals.

The 60-year-old Chinese woman, who had four companions, flew directly to Cebu on Jan. 20 and took a ferry to Tagbilaran City in Bohol province. They stayed in a hotel in Tagbilaran but the woman soon sought medical attention because she had high fever and was admitted to a local hospital.

Jaime Bernardas, DOH director in Central Visayas, on Thursday said tracing the contacts of the woman was a “huge challenge” for the agency because of a huge number of people it had to locate.

Col. Jonathan Cabal, Bohol police chief, said police were helping track down the woman’s contacts.

In Dumaguete, which was visited by the couple from Wuhan, classes were called off for three days on Wednesday at four universities and two colleges as a precautionary measure to halt the spread of the virus.

In Quezon province, four people are under observation for infection with the new virus. All had traveled to either China or its two semiautonomous regions—Hong Kong and Macau.

The Philippines has banned all travel from China, but some Chinese tourists still manage to sneak into tourist destinations in Mindanao, according to the DOH.

Not all arrivals from China are quarantined. Annabelle Yumang, DOH director for Southern Mindanao, said only those showing symptoms could be put on isolation. Those with no symptoms are just monitored for signs of the disease, she said.

Special flights to China

PAL said on Thursday it would mount special flights for Chinese nationals and other foreigners stranded by the suspension of services following the ban on all travel from and to China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Cielo Villaluna, spokesperson for PAL, said the special flights between Manila and Xiamen would be staffed with volunteer pilots and cabin crew and be operated with the 199-seat Airbus A321.

Villaluna said PR 334 would depart Manila on Monday at 7:30 a.m. and arrive in Xiamen at 9:55 a.m. The return flight, PR 335, would depart Xiamen at 11:05 a.m. and arrive in Manila at 1:60 p.m. the same day.

She said the flight to Xiamen would allow Chinese nationals and other foreigners to return to the China mainland, while the return flight would enable Filipino citizens and holders of Philippine permanent resident visas to return to the Philippines. —REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN, TINA G. SANTOS, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE, JEROME ANING, DALE ISRAEL, LEO UDTOHAN, IRMA FAITH PAL, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., GERMELINA LACORTE, ROMMEL REBOLLIDO AND DIVINA SUSON

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TAGS: Department of Foreign Affairs, Hong Kong, nCoV
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