TIMELINE: The novel coronavirus epidemic
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) swiftly shook the world after its discovery around a week into January 2020. With at least 20,000 infected and 494 killed as of writing, medical researchers are racing against time to formulate a cure.
Here’s a rundown of what has happened since the 2019-nCoV emerged from its epicenter in Wuhan, China:
December 31, 2019
China investigates the outbreak of a viral pneumonia that infected 27 people in Wuhan. The Wuhan municipal health committee issues an emergency notification, saying hospitals in the city treated a “successive series of patients with unexplained pneumonia.”
The notification urges hospitals to offer treatment and report cases.
January 5, 2020
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III orders the Bureau of Quarantine to strengthen its surveillance of incoming travelers from China.
January 9, 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the mystery virus is a new strain of coronavirus. By this time, 59 cases have been reported. Seven of the 59 are seriously ill, but none have died yet.
Some of the patients are employees of a seafood market that bears a sign saying it had been closed on January 1 due to the “current pneumonia situation in our city.”
January 16-17, 2020
The next day, scientists from the MRC Center for Global Infectious Disease Analysis estimate that there are close to 1,700 cases in Wuhan, far from the earlier reported 45.
January 23, 2020
The Manila International Airport Authority enforces precautionary measures such as ensuring the availability of hand sanitizers, providing an examination booth, and sanitizing quarantine areas.
The Bureau of Quarantine is observed to be using thermal scanners to monitor the body temperatures of passengers arriving from international flights to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
January 24-25, 2020
The Department of Health (DOH) announces that a 5-year-old child in Cebu under investigation for 3 days tested negative for the 2019-nCoV. The child had travel history in Wuhan.
The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) suspends all airline operations between Wuhan, China, and any destination in the Philippines for an indefinite period.
On January 25, health authorities repatriate 80 Chinese Boracay-bound tourists who had arrived in Aklan from Wuhan.
January 28, 2020
The Philippines temporarily stops issuing visas to travelers from Hubei province.
The Philippine Bureau of Immigration also temporarily suspends the visa upon arrival (VUA) mechanism for Chinese tourists and businessmen, while the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) calls for a voluntary repatriation for Filipinos in Hubei who wish to come home.
January 29, 2020
Duque is summoned to the House of Representatives for a question hour. He says it would be “very tricky” if the Philippines singles out China for a travel ban, since other countries also have confirmed cases.
On this day, too, a man under investigation in the Philippines for the 2019-nCoV dies due to pneumonia.
DOH also announces that they now have the capability to test samples of the novel coronavirus, no longer needing to send them to Australia for verification.
January 30, 2020
Duque confirms the first case of the novel coronavirus in the country in a 38-year-old Chinese woman who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan.
Duque recommends travel restrictions from mainland China, contrary to his earlier statement.
The WHO declares the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the 6th since 2009.
At this point, there are more than 7,700 infected, with 170 who have died. There are 82 confirmed cases in 18 other countries as of this date.
Senators urge the government to issue a temporary travel ban to and from China.
The DOH and DFA call for a widened repatriation of Filipinos in China.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia announces that the provincial government would quarantine passengers arriving in Cebu from mainland China. Meanwhile, acting Malay town mayor Floribar Bautista considers a ban on foreigners traveling from mainland China to Boracay Island.
January 31, 2020
President Rodrigo Duterte imposes a travel ban on Chinese citizens coming from Hubei province and other areas of China where the virus has spread.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific pull out for disinfection the planes that were boarded by the coronavirus-positive patient. The airlines implement a number of preventive measures including intensive cleaning, thermal scanning, and information campaigns.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) implements increased safety measures in nationwide transport hubs, such as the use of face masks by service personnel and disinfection of train interiors and surfaces after every loop.
The Maritime Industry Authority also advises ship owners and operators to report suspected cases of 2019-nCoV, install necessary medical equipment, and inform personnel about the virus. Strict passenger screening is also to be conducted at arrival areas in ports operated by the Philippine Ports Authority.
The Iloilo government urges Cebu Pacific to suspend flights coming from Hong Kong to the Iloilo International Airport.
February 1, 2020
AirAsia cancels flights from Manila and Kalibo to Hong Kong, Macao, and mainland China cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai until March 1.
February 2, 2020
The DOH reports the first death outside China of a 44-year-old Chinese male who dies in the Philippines. This second 2019-nCoV-positive patient was the traveling companion of the 38-year-old woman, the first confirmed case. However, 24 persons under investigation test negative.
Duterte expands the travel ban to cover any person traveling directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau, with the exception of Filipinos and holders of permanent resident visas.
February 3, 2020
Duterte hits displays of xenophobia as he rejects calls to ban all Chinese from entering the country.
The President says "everything is well" in the Philippines, there is "nothing really to be extra scared of," and that the virus would "die a natural death."
Duterte also says the government is procuring face masks amid scarcity.
February 4, 2020
In a Senate hearing, the DOH reports they have been able to contact only around 50 of the 331 passengers who rode the same flights as the two confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV. Senators grill Duque for shortcomings in leadership, but he points at the DOH epidemiology bureau instead.
Duque says contact tracing is "not easy." While airlines have been sharing flight manifests, Duque says they invoke the Data Privacy Act in withholding the contact details of their passengers. He announces "aggressive contact tracing" will begin on February 5 with the assistance of the Philippine National Police.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia places Cebu under a state of preparedness.
The number of persons under investigation rises to over 100.
February 5, 2020
The DOH confirms the third case of the coronavirus in the Philippines in a 60-year-old woman from Wuhan. Later samples taken from her reveal she has recovered from the disease and is allowed to return to China.
The first case of a Filipino infected by the disease is recorded. He remains in Japan as the cruise ship he works on is quarantined there. A total of 538 Filipinos are onboard the ship and are quarantined as well.
980 people worldwide are reported to have recovered from the virus. – Rappler.com
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