MANILA, Philippines – Three Cabinet officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, on Tuesday, February 18, assured the public that it is “safe” to organize and attend public gatherings for as long as people follow the prescribed precautionary measures to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Duque, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat issued the joint statement which is a modification of the Department of Health (DOH) advisory on February 7, “strongly” urging the public to avoid public gatherings to stem the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by 2019-nCoV.
“The Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) would like to assure everyone that it is safe to organize and attend public gatherings, meetings, and festivals as long as all precautionary measures identifed by the DOH are observed,” they said in the statement.
The DOH chairs the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Meeting, while the DILG and the DOT are among its members.
LOOK: DOH, DILG, and DOT issue joint statement saying it is safe to organize and attend public gatherings amid 2019-nCoV threat, as long as the precautionary measures identified by the DOH are observed. @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/sYTxcCbqwK— Mara Cepeda (@maracepeda) February 18, 2020
The DOH reminded the public to wash hands regularly and seek medical attention for signs of cough, colds, sore throat, and fever, which are symptoms of COVID-19.
“All preventive and precautionary measures have been put in place by the national government to contain the spread of the COVID-19,” said Duque, Año, and Puyat.
The Cabinet officials also said the guidelines in “handling guests” in tourism enterprises in the country are being implemented even before the government imposed a now-partially lifted temporary travel ban to and from Hong Kong, Macau, and China, the epicenter of COVID-19 which has so far killed 1,863 people and infected more than 72,300 people there.
“The safety of the public, especially our tourists and employees in the tourism sector, remains the priority of the Philippine government,” the officials said.
The officials gave the assurance as the government moved to boost domestic tourism especially this summer season, after the COVID-19 outbreak slowed down the influx of foreign visitors, especially those from China.
Puyat had earlier told lawmakers that the Philippines stands to lose P42.9 billion in tourism revenues for the peak months of February to April due to the COVID-19 threat.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself had expressed willingness to be a domestic travel ambassador of sorts, to encourage Filipinos to patronize local tourist spots.
The DOT wants Duterte himself to travel to popular beach destinations like Boracay, Cebu, and Bohol – places frequented by Chinese tourists – to offset the death of foreign tourists.
As of Tuesday, the DOH has yet to report any case of local transmission of COVID-19, although the Philippines has recorded 3 confirmed cases of the new disease. One of them died, but the other two recovered and had been discharged from the hospital.
There are currently 49 Filipinos under quarantine in New Clark City in Tarlac, a majority of whom were repatriated from Hubei, China.
In Japan, 35 out of the 538 Filipinos onboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess tested positive for 2019-nCoV. – Rappler.com
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