3 foreigners from Taiwan, Japan, Australia catch coronavirus after travel from PH

Mara Cepeda
But the Department of Health and the World Health Organization say the travel history of 2 of the positive cases indicate they may have contracted the coronavirus outside the Philippines

OUTBREAK SCARE. People buy protective masks at a medical supplies store in Manila on January 31, 2020. Photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Three foreigners from Taiwan, Japan, and Australia tested positive for the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) after traveling from the Philippines.

This was confirmed on Friday, March 6, by Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III, who also reported two additional positive cases in the Philippines in the same press conference. 

But Duque said the men from Taiwan and Japan may have been infected even before they set foot in the Philippines. 

“The onset of symptoms [of the Taiwanese man] on March 2 points to possible infection before the patient traveled to the Philippines…. The extensive travel history of the patient [from Japan] suggests possible contraction of the disease in another country,” the DOH chief said. 

Duque said the first foreigner who tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by 2019-nCoV, was a Taiwanese male who visited the Philippines from February 28 to March 3. 

During his trip, the Taiwanese man developed abdominal discomfort and diarrhea on March 2, then developed sore throat, fever, and malaise the next day. By March 4, he was back in Taiwan, where he visited an outpatient clinic on March 4. He later received a positive test result for COVID-19 on March 5. 

The second foreigner with COVID-19 was a 44-year-old Japanese male who was in the Philippines from February 21 to 28. Duque said the Japanese man stayed at 3 different hotels while in Metro Manila, but did not specify the names of the establishments.  

The Japanese man then flew to Thailand on February 28 and started experiencing cough, shortness of breath, and fever on February 29. He then proceeded to Cambodia, where he consulted a clinic and a hospital on March 3. He did not undergo any tests for COVID-19 at this time.

It was only when he returned to Japan on March 4 did he test positive for the disease. He is currently admitted at a hospital in the Aichi Prefecture. 

The 3rd positive case is a female based in Sydney, Australia who attended a wedding in Manila on February 13 then flew to Pangasinan. Duque said she left the Philippines to return to Sydney on March 2. She tested positive for COVID-19 upon her arrival in Australia on March 3.

The DOH was still verifying more information about the Australian woman with the International Health Regulation National Focal Point Australia. 

WHO: Infections may have happened outside PH

Just like Duque, World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative to the Philippines Dr Rabinddra Abeyasinghe said the travel history of both the Taiwanese and the Japanese men indicate they may have gotten COVID-19 outside the Philippines.

“We recognize the incubation period is between two to 14 days, but in the majority of cases, it’s 6 to 7 days. So it’s very likely that this person possibly get infected either before travel or during travel to the Philippines. So the timeline point to possible earlier infection,” Abeyasinghe said, referring to the Taiwanese man. 

He then pointed out that the Japanese man visited a number of other countries apart from the Philippines before he tested positive for COVID-19. 

“We need to recognize that he spent several days in Cambodia, several days in Vietnam. He travelled to Thailand and spent some time, and he’s been going in and out of Japan also. So the infection could have actually happened in any one of these countries,” said Abeyasinghe. 

As of Friday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – 3 foreigners from China and two Filipinos. Of the 3 Chinese cases, one died while the other two recovered.  

The DOH is yet to report a confirmed case of local transmission of the virus, which has killed more than 3,300 people and infected over 98,300 all over the world. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.