STAY CALM, BE VIGILANT: DOH confirms first 2019-nCoV case in PH Suspension of int’l flights from Iloilo sought

Several pedestrians in downtown Iloilo City wear facial masks on Thursday after health authorities confirmed the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus case in the Philippines. Pharmacies are also running out of stocks of facial masks due to high demand. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By Emme Rose Santiagudo

Ilonggos should not panic and instead remain calm and vigilant after the first case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the Philippines was confirmed by the health authorities on Thursday.

This was the call of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development 6 (Western Visayas).

Dr. Jane Juanico, DOH CHD 6 infectious disease cluster head, urged Ilonggos to maintain a healthy lifestyle by drinking lots of water and eating nutritious food.

“We urge the public especially the Ilonggos to remain calm and at the same time vigilant,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday.

A 38-year-old female from Wuhan, China who is currently admitted in a government hospital in Manila, has been confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus.

Based on reports, the Chinese woman arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong last January 21 and travelled to Dumaguete and Cebu.

In Iloilo, DOH-CHD 6 has confirmed that it is monitoring one patient under investigation (PUI) from China who arrived in Iloilo last January 27 after suffering from fever. But she had history of travel to Hubei, Province, China, where the outbreak originated, and had no history of exposure.

As of January 29, Juanico said the patient remains confined but it is already afebrile (no fever) and without cough or colds.

Oropharyngeal and serum samples of the patient were already sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine for screening.

Meanwhile, the three PUIs in Western Visayas which were previously reported by the DOH Central Office all tested negative for the virus, according to Juanico.

Juanico said that the DOH-CHD is on top of the situation as case detection and monitoring continues in the region.

“We are on top of this situation. Nagapdayon ang aton case detection and surveillance. Our health workers are on the ground and we established strong coordination sa aton mga partner agencies,” she said.

“Our health facilities are prepared to cater to any possible case. They have their own facilities and infection control areas and aware sila what to do if the worst comes to worst,” she said.

As a precautionary measure, Juanico said it is a person’s prerogative to buy facial masks and disinfectants, especially when they are commonly exposed to crowded places.

Depende man sa ila kon mag-stock sila sa ila pag-assess sang ila exposure, if they think nga indi malimitahan ang pagkadto nila sa crowded places and pwede sila makakuha sang possible infection, that is their prerogative,” she said.

Since Thursday morning, several Ilonggos especially, in the busy streets of the downtown area, were spotted wearing face masks.

Pharmacies and other medical drug stores have also posted signage indicating that face masks are currently out of stock.

Meanwhile, the health department continues to advise the public to seek medical consultation and follow preventive measures if they have three of the following conditions: fever with temperature of more than 38 degrees; respiratory infection like cough or cold; travel history to Wuhan, China and history of exposure and close contact with a confirmed case of the virus.

The health department also encouraged the public to practice W-U-H-A-N which is short for Washing your hands regularly, Use facemask if necessary; Have your temperature checked regularly, Avoid crowded places; and Never touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with dirty hands.



The provincial government of Iloilo has requested a domestic airline to voluntary halt international flights in the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo going to and from countries positive for novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) following the confirmation of the first case in the country today.

“May we respectfully request for your voluntary cessation of international flight going to and from the countries positive for 2019 n-Cov immediately. Your favorable and immediate action on this report will be highly appreciated,” Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said in his letter addressed to the operations manager of Cebu Pacific Air.

The Iloilo International Airport accommodates around 3,400 to 4,000 inbound and outbound passengers every day with an average of 31 average flights.

It caters to domestic and international flights including flights going to and from Hong Kong and Singapore.

The novel coronavirus has spread to 22 countries and territories worldwide, with 7,915 confirmed cases and 170 deaths as of January 30, 2020, according to the Worldometer website.

Both Hong Kong and Singapore each recorded ten confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV.

Meanwhile, Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Philippine Airlines has decided to cancel chartered flights between Kalibo and several cities in China, but will keep its regularly scheduled flights to and from the mainland with enhanced protective measures in place.

In a statement, PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline’s chartered flights between Kalibo and Nanjing, Hangzhou and Shanghai will be suspended, in part due to the drop in demand from travelers.

“Our flights between Manila and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Jinjiang, Hong Kong and Macau remain operational with protective measures in place,” she said.

Villaluna said the cancelled flights “are our China chartered flights.” “Charterers have requested cancellations in the wake of concerns on coronavirus,” she said.

Passengers with tickets for travel between Jan. 24 to Feb. 29, 2020 may rebook their flights to another date until June 2020. Refund and rerouting were also offered as options with service fees waived.

Villaluna added that all members of PAL’s cabin crew wear protective masks onboard and passengers who request masks are provided with them.

Cabins are sprayed with disinfectant and announcements were being made inflight to inform passengers that they would be scanned for fever by the Bureau of Quarantine “at point of arrival.”

Starting last Jan. 27, PAL had stopped operating inbound Kalibo flights. But all outbound flights from Kalibo had been operated this week to allow Chinese tourists to return to their homeland.

“The last outbound Kalibo flight left at 5:10 p.m. for Hangzhou,” Villaluna said. “So starting next week, no flights in and out of Kalibo.” (With a report from