DFA convenes emergency meeting on global spread of coronavirus

Sofia Tomacruz
DFA convenes emergency meeting on global spread of coronavirus
(UPDATED) The Department of Foreign Affairs gives assurances its embassy and consulates general in China are closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is scheduled to convene on Monday, January 27 an emergency meeting to discuss the Philippine government’s strategies to respond to the global spread of 2019 novel coronavirus.

The DFA gave assurances that its embassy and consulates general in China were closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak as it urged Filipinos in the country to take necessary health precautions and follow the advice of local health authorities in their respective areas. 

The virus, which originated from Wuhan, China, has so far killed 80 and infected over 2,700 in the country and other states in Asia and North America as of January 26. (READ: The global spread of the coronavirus: Where is it?)

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, who will convene over the emergency meeting, assured the public her office was in close coordination with health authorities and experts to ensure the protection of overseas Filipino workers.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin earlier said the DFA would take its cue from Health Secretary Francisco Duque regarding diplomatic responses to the 2019 novel coronavirus. 

Preparedness measures: On Monday afternoon, the DFA said it sought guidance from the Department of Health on the establishment of protocols on repatriation of Filipinos in Wuhan City and other affected cities and provinces in China.

It also consulted health officials on establishing DOH hotlines in every foreign service post in China and in crafting advisories for Filipinos in other countries were confirmed cases of the coronavirus were found.

Health Undersecretary for Public Health Services Myrna Cabotaje advised overseas Filipinos in affected areas to avoid crowded places, use mask and gloves, and practice proper hygiene in order to reduce exposure to and transmission of said virus.

 

Filipinos in China: According to the DFA, the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai reported it was in touch with around 150 Filipinos in Wuhan City, which China has locked down in an effort to to slow the spread of the respiratory illness.

The Consulate said it requested Filipino community leaders in Wuhan to provide them assistance, especially to tourists or individuals on short-term visits.

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong likewise issued an advisory urging Filipinos to cooperate with Hong Kong government, as it raised its response level to the highest “Emergency Response Level.” Filipinos who will require assistance from the Consulate may be reached through its hotline at (+852) 9155 4023.

Local situation: In the Philippines, health officials remain on high alert as the death toll from the novel coronavirus continues to rise in China. The health department’s Bureau of Quarantine is also working closely with airlines and airport authorities to ensure stricter border surveillance. It urged individuals who have travelled to Wuhan City to immediately seek medical consult if they were experiencing symptoms like fever and cough.

Duque said 11 patients were under investigation for the virus but that as of Monday, some have been discharged. He added there have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus found in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.