PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte this week declared a state of public health emergency in the country as the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continues to rise.

As of Tuesday, March 10, 33 cases have been confirmed as the country’s Department of Health (DOH) announced nine additional cases following Duterte’s proclamation the night before. 

The president signed the proclamation putting the country under the state of public health emergency on Monday night, March 9 in accordance with the Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.

Under the act, a public health emergency is an “occurrence of an imminent threat of an illness or health condition which could pose a high probability of a large number of deaths… widespread exposure to an infectious agent.”

Duterte’s proclamation orders government agencies and local government units to provide assistance and resources to address the current cases and prevent the virus from spreading further. 

“All citizens, residents, tourists, and establishments owners are urged to act within the bounds of the law to comply with the lawful directives and advisories to be issued by appropriate government agencies to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 and ensure the safety and well-being of all,” he added.

The number of cases on Monday night was at 24, doubling from the previous 10. It was the same day the DOH received results of tests positive for the deadly disease.

According to Duterte, the latest cases came from West Crame in San Juan, Project 6 in Quezon City and Sta. Maria in Bulacan. He did not disclose the fourth location. 

He also announced the suspension of classes in Metro Manila from Tuesday to Saturday, March 14.

“Tingnan natin incubation period (Let’s monitor the incubation period),” the president told reporters. 

Health Assistant Secretary Ma. Rosario Vergeire said the department is gathering information on the places of residence and whereabouts of cases 11 to 20.

She also said that the DOH is still determining how the new cases were “epidemiologically linked” to previously confirmed patients. 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said two of the 24 confirmed cases are now in critical condition — one Filipino and one American.

Both of the cases are said to have pre-existing conditions before being diagnosed with coronavirus. 

“All of these mirror the same serious, if not critical cases that have been observed in Wuhan and the Hubei Province [in China], the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus,” Duque said Tuesday, March 10.

“It looks like more and more data that come in shows that most of the cases are actually mild cases, 80 to 85%,” he added. 

The health secretary also urged individuals with a “known history of exposure and travel presenting mild symptoms” to self-isolate and be quarantined at home for 14 days. 

The state of emergency declaration will remain in effect until Duterte lifts it.

Coronavirus symptoms include fever, tiredness and dry cough, according to the World Health Organization. The respiratory disease has left more than 3,800 dead and affected 110,000 worldwide.

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