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Task Force agrees on plan to contain outbreak

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Rodrigo Duterte 020819 - Task Force agrees on plan to contain outbreak

AN INTER-AGENCY task force made up of Cabinet officials met on Thursday and agreed on recommendations to contain a novel coronavirus outbreak that has infected at least 52 people.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who met with the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases last night, was scheduled to address the nation later to announce a decision on the matter, his spokesman said in an e-mail.

Salvador S. Panelo declined to provide further details before Mr. Duterte made the announcement.

The Health department yesterday reported three new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections, bringing the total to 52.

DoH data showed two of the patients had no travel history, while the 52nd case had been to the United Kingdom.

The patients were being treated at the Medical City, Makati Medical Center and Asian Hospital.

Two of the patients are from Quezon City, while the other’s residence was still being validated, DoH said.

The agency said there were 99 Filipinos overseas who had been infected — 80 in Japan, two in the United Arab Emirates, five in Hong Kong, and six each in Singapore and the US.

The World Health Organization declared the disease a pandemic.

DoH also confirmed the death of the 35th case, a 67-year-old female, on March 11 due to severe pneumonia.

Earlier, a Chinese national from Wuhan City in China’s Hubei province died after testing positive for the disease here.

The Health department said elderly people, 66 years on average, and those with medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease and immunosuppression are vulnerable to COVID-19.

“We further urge those who are immunocompromised and are with existing health conditions to be more vigilant and avoid crowded areas and mass gatherings.” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in a statement.

Also yesterday, Senate premises were put under “restricted access” while the building was being sanitized after a resource person who attended a hearing later tested positive for the novel coronavirus strain, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said in a teleconference.

“I have issued a directive to the Senate sergeant-at-arms, the Senate is now under restricted access, not lockdown, as the term lockdown has been misinterpreted and abused,” he said.

This means Senate officials and their staff may be allowed to enter the Senate building if they need to complete some work.

Mr. Sotto on Wednesday evening announced a lockdown after Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian confirmed a resource person present at a March 5 hearing later tested positive.

Senate hearings would be suspended until the building is fully disinfected, Mr. Sotto said.

The blue ribbon committee headed by Senator Richard J. Gordon, was scheduled to continue its probe on alleged money laundering on Thursday. Mr. Gordon postponed the hearing after the lockdown.

Both Senator Gatchalian and Senator Nancy S. Binay said they were under self-quarantine starting Wednesday evening. Ten other senators followed their lead on Thursday.

These include Senators Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Franklin M. Drilon, Panfilo M. Lacson, Juan Edgardo M. Angara, Ramon B. Revilla, Jr., Imee R. Marcos, Francis N. Tolentino, Francis N. Pangilinan, Ralph G. Recto and Manuel M. Lapid.

Mr. Gatchalian said he was not showing symptoms but would be tested for possible infection.

Mr. Lacson said if Mr. Gatchalian tests positive for the virus, he will likewise subject himself to the test, having shared an elevator ride with him. — Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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