The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) should prompt the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to have systems in place for the evacuation of Filipinos in Wuhan, Senator Win Gatchalian said.
It is important, he noted, that these Filipinos should be located ahead of a possible evacuation, adding that the DFA should constantly monitor the situation in Wuhan of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) so that the government can address their needs.
The DFA has reported that there are around 150 Filipinos in Wuhan City in China, the source of coronavirus that has already killed 56 people around the globe.
The lawmaker cited the example of the United States, which initiated an evacuation of American citizens from the epidemic-stricken city.
“We have to prepare for any eventuality”, said the lawmaker, who expressed alarm that Filipinos are not spared from being infected if the virus is not contained.
“Nakakabahala ang mabilis na pagkalat ng coronavirus sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng mundo at mahalagang may regular din dapat na ibinibigay na balita ang DFA tungkol sa kaligtasan ng ating mga OFW”, said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian added that the DFA should coordinate more closely with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are protected from the threat of the 2019-nCoV.
According to the January 26 situation report of the World Health Organization (WHO), a total of 2,014 cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported globally, 1,985 of which were from China. Twenty-nine cases were confirmed in ten other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, the United States, and France.
The 2019-nCoV was first reported in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019. Symptoms of this new strain include fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing. As a type of coronavirus, the 2019-nCoV belongs to a large family of viruses that include the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
Authorities warn that the virus is mutating and can be transmitted through human contact.
The Department of Health recently revealed that 11 persons are under investigation for suspected 2019-nCoV. Two are in hospitals in Metro Manila, one in Mimaropa, one in Northern Mindanao, three in Western Visayas, one in Eastern Visayas, and three in Central Visayas.