COVID-19: Philippines President declares health emergency

A community in the Philippines has recorded the nation’s first case of local transmission of the COVID-19 necessitating new measures to prevent further spread.

In view of this development Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has announced plans to declare a nationwide public health emergency to contain the spread of the virus.

Earlier in the day, the Philippine health officials said the country recorded its first case of local transmission and demanded structures to be put in place to contain its spread.

The health ministry added that three new cases of the COVID-19 have been recorded since Friday, in addition to the three Chinese tourists who were diagnosed with the virus in January and another last week.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the World Health Organisation’s Philippine representative, said while the case suggested a local transmission of the COVID-19 virus it’s not yet clear whether they are looking at a local case or a cluster of cases.

He said: It is “premature” to raise the alert level to “code red.” A cluster of cases doesn’t mean that you are having widespread local transmission We don’t talk of community transmission till we clearly know the extent of the cluster.

Bong Go, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and a close aide of the president, said government agencies were asked to “undertake critical, urgent and appropriate response and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the COVID-19 threat.

Philippines tackling COVID-19

The Philippine government noted that due to its proximity to China, the country is at a far greater risk of witnessing increased cases of the COVID-19 infection when compared to other countries.

A temporary ban was imposed on the workers from traveling to China or its special administrative regions after the coronavirus outbreak on 2 February. The ban was lifted on 18th February allowing OFWs to return to Hong Kong and Macau.

The government is additionally putting in place travel restrictions, closure of schools and colleges, in a bid to contain the virus.

The government announced on 2 February 2020 that all persons except Filipino citizens and permanent resident visa holders were temporarily barred from entering the country.

A temporary ban on Filipinos from traveling to China or its special administrative region was also imposed. Mandatory 14-day quarantine for Filipinos returning to China or its special administrative region was announced.

Effect on the Philippine economy

The Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) noted that the coronavirus outbreak could have a major impact on the Philippine economy in the next few months.

Ruben Carlo Asuncion, chief economist for Union Bank of the Philippines, stated that the coronavirus outbreak could cost the Philippine economy $600 million or 0.8 percent of economic growth if it lasts for six months.

The ongoing COVID-19 infection is expected to result in a subdued growth for the Philippine economy growth in 2020.