SAFETY GEAR. Seller of face masks made of cloth draws buyers near Munoz public market along Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City on Wednesday, March 11.  People resort to cloth face masks amid the shortage and higher price of surgical masks triggered by the new cases of the deadly coronavirus disease. Prices of fabric face masks range from P25 to P65 depending on the style and design.
| PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler

The number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the Philippines has risen to 49, days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency in the country.

The country’s Department of Health (DOH) confirmed 16 new cases as of Wednesday, March 11. Ten of the new patients have no history of travel or exposure to someone with COVID-19, while two were exposed to someone with the viral disease.

Three more foreigners from Japan, Singapore, and South Korea with histories of travel to the Philippines contracted COVID-19, the department also announced. 

“We have six confirmed cases of foreign nationals with history of travel to the Philippines,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III at a briefing with the House Committee on Health.

According to him, a Japanese who stayed in the country for nine days has been admitted to a medical facility in Japan. A Singaporean was also found to have contracted COVID-19 after staying in the Philippines for three days. A South Korean who has an “extensive” travel history in the country also tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Duque said the patient stayed in the Philippines for two months.

“What we have now is localized transmission in the areas we have earlier mentioned. But the situation can very quickly progress into a community transmission, which means, there could be a larger area of affected communities,” Duque also said during the briefing. 

Earlier, the DOH confirmed that a 38-year-old Taiwanese male, a 44-year-old Japanese man and a woman based in Australia caught the virus after traveling to the Philippines.

But Duque pointed out that the two men may have caught the virus elsewhere based on their travel histories.

The department also confirmed the death of a 67-year-old Filipina woman with no history of travel abroad of exposure to a known case, making her the first Filipino to die from the disease. 

A Chinese man previously died in the country on February 1, which was the first virus-related death outside of China. 

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.

PhilHealth to shoulder testing costs for COVID-19

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles announced that the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will be shouldering the testing costs for the novel coronavirus in hospitals.

Apart from that, PhilHeath will also shoulder hospital fees for quarantine and isolation.

“The last thing we want is for our citizens to worry about medical costs and expenses. Their only concern should be their well-being and the well-being of their families,” said Nograles in a statement.

“The president recognizes that everyone in the country is concerned about COVID-19 and the threat this poses to the health and lives of our loved ones, especially vulnerable individuals like senior citizens,” he added.

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 over 110,000 worldwide. n

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