DOH, WHO optimistic PH can contain the spread of coronavirus

This file photo shows the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, a specialty tertiary government hospital that is also a referral facility for infectious and communicable diseases. | Philstar.com photo by End Gumban

Representatives of the Philippine Department of Health and the World Health Organization on Monday, February 3, expressed optimism that the country can prevent the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) from further spreading.

During the Senate hearing on the government’s response to and preparedness for the new virus, Senators Nancy Binay, Risa Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva asked whether the Philippines is equipped and prepared to deal with a possible outbreak scenario.

Villanueva pointed out that the country’s limited resources could hinder initiatives against the virus.

“The Philippine government is capable indeed of addressing the 2019-nCoV situation. This is not the first time, your honors. We have been besieged by the similar coronavirus of 2002 and 2003 and 2014-15,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in response.

He added, “We’ve done this before but it is very important that we should be able to heighten all the intervention needed to mount an effective response to these emerging infectious disease.”

Acting WHO representative in the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe also said: “We still believe that this outbreak can be controlled like the previous two coronavirus outbreaks of SARS and MERS-CoV.”

According to him, the Philippines has been one of the proactive members in the last few years in implementing measures to combat outbreaks.

Countries need to be more prepared

While Duque and Abeyasinghe said they are optimistic that the country can keep nCoV from spreading, they still called for further preparedness capacities amid the virus scare.

“We [still] need to increase the preparedness and response capacities across all member states so that they are prepared to deal with possible importations and the possible emergence of local transmission,” said Abeyasinghe.

Meanwhile, Duque said: “This particular virus can be notorious for its ability to mutate. To what extent, nobody knows for sure. We have to be extra careful and we ought to be ready at all times.”

Currently, there is no vaccine or special treatment for nCoV. 

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