156 Chinese Tourists Flown Back To Wuhan From Philippines

January 26, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020
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Nearly 200 Chinese tourists were flown back to Wuhan from Kalibo in the Philippines on Jan. 25 amid the threat of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), ABS-CBN reports.

A total of 156 tourists returned to the Chinese city at around 10 p.m local time, while a further 150 others are set to fly back on the evening of Jan.27, according to the outlet.

The move comes after the Philippines Civil Aeronautics Board announced it would be suspending all direct flights from Wuhan to any destination in the country as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus.

However, the suspension exempted Royal Air Charter Services flights on Jan. 24 and 27, and Pan Pacific Air flights on Jan. 23 and 25, which it said would instead ferry passengers back to Wuhan.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Jan. 23 that “everything must be done so as not to compromise public safety.”

“When it come to public safety, it is always better to be overly protective than to fall short on measures and eventually regret it. We have to address it quickly and we have to do it right,” he said in a statement.

The Chinese tourists that were flown back to Wuhan had arrived from the city before the announcement was made.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus in the Philippines, however, the Department of Health (DOH) said it is actively monitoring a 36-year-old man from Tacloban.

In a press conference last week, DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said the unnamed man showed symptoms of respiratory infection and had been in Wuhan city before arriving back to the Philippines on Jan. 17.

A five-year-old Chinese boy with a history of travel to Wuhan was also suspected to be carrying the disease but later tested negative for the virus, officials said.

“This is indeed very welcome news to ease the Filipinos’ growing concern. I assure everyone that your Department of Health will not stop here and is on top of this emerging health event. We will continue to monitor the developing situation and ensure mechanisms to contain the threat of the 2019-nCoV,” assured Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

The outbreak in China has reached nearly every province and region. In recent weeks it has also spread to France, Australia, the United States, and Canada.

The city of Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, has been placed on virtual lockdown following the outbreak of the virus which emerged there at the end of last year.

All public transport services, including airplanes and trains, have been suspended in the city as authorities attempt to contain the virus. Several other countries have also implemented health screening of travelers arriving from Wuhan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has recommended against nonessential travel to Wuhan and suggested that anyone who has traveled to China in the last 14 days and feels sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing should urgently seek medical care.

Health experts have been comparing the Wuhan virus with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), all belonging to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses which are believed to have originated from animals before spreading to humans.

Health experts do not yet know which animal may have caused the current outbreak in Wuhan however, the first people infected by the virus had visited or worked at the Wuhan South China Seafood City, also known as the South China Seafood Wholesale Market and the Hua Nan Seafood Market.

As of yet, it is still unclear how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people.

Symptoms of the virus include sickness, runny nose, cough, sore throat, and sometimes a headache which may last for a few days. It is usually accompanied by an upper respiratory tract illness and can be more severe in older people.