MANILA – The Philippines on Monday (Jan 17) repatriated the last of over 600 Chinese tourists from Wuhan who were headed for the popular island resort of Boracay, as health officials announced that they were checking at least 11 suspected cases of infections caused by a virus that began spreading from from the central Chinese city.
In all, 634 tourists were sent back to Wuhan in four batches starting Thursday.
The Philippines has cancelled direct flights to the Chinese city. Flights to other parts of China will continue, though under tight watch.
Close to 1.5 million Chinese tourists arrived in the Philippines in the first 10 months of last year, and over 4 million more are believed to be working in the country’s booming offshore gaming industry.
The Philippines has yet to confirm its first case of the Wuhan virus, although it is keeping watch on at least 11 “patients under investigation”, including an American, a German and a Brazilian, Health Secretary Francisco Duque told a news briefing on Monday.
“There are 39 novel coronavirus-related health events that have been reported. Eleven of the 39 accounts… are patients under investigation,” he said.
All were foreigners, and had a history of travelling to Wuhan. They had a cough and fever as well as other flu-like symptoms when they landed in the Philippines.
All were taken to hospitals, two of which were in the capital, Manila.
The youngest patient was a five-year-old boy, while the oldest was a 78-year-old man.
Another five-year-old boy tested positive for the coronavirus last week. But samples sent for examination to Melbourne, Australia, came back negative for the Wuhan strain.
Senator Christopher Go told reporters some 50 Filipinos now in Wuhan were seeking to come home. Chinese authorities have barred all travel in and out of the city.
“We’re ready to send a plane to bring them home. But the problem is: Will China agree?” he said.
The foreign ministry said there were about 150 Filipinos in Wuhan. But it did not say whether they were living there or just visiting.
Officials from the foreign and health ministries held talks on Monday to lay down plans in case the government would have to evacuate Filipinos in countries hit by the Wuhan virus.
At least eight Chinese schools in Manila and nearby Quezon City suspended classes this week as a “precautionary measure”.
School officials said the move would allow them to gather information on the travel history of students and faculty members during the Chinese New Year break.
One school required its students and teachers who had been to China or Hong Kong recently to be quarantined for two weeks.
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