BREAKING: Philippines confirms first local COVID-19 cases in weeks, says Health Dept

Travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News
Travelers arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Photo: Jonathan Cellona/ABS-CBN News

The Department of Health (DOH) today confirmed that two Filipino patients have tested positive for the potentially deadly COVID-19, making them the first Filipinos to be diagnosed with the illness inside the country.

In a press conference today, the DOH said the country’s fourth case — after the three Chinese tourists who were previously diagnosed — is a 48-year-old Filipino who had recently traveled to Japan. His condition has been described as “stable,” and he is currently confined at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa.

The fifth case is a 62-year-old Muslim Filipino with hypertension and diabetes who regularly visits a prayer hall in Greenhills, San Juan City. The patient is also confined at the RITM. Others who frequent the hall are encouraged to call the DOH at (+632) 8-651-7800 local 1149-1150.

While the DOH did not provide specific details, they are likely referring to the Greenhills Masjid prayer hall inside the Greenhills Shopping Center.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque, meanwhile, asked the public to do their part to prevent the virus’ spread.

“We can still contain the spread of the virus in the country, which is why we are encouraging the public to practice proper handwashing, social distancing, and cough etiquette,” he said.

Prior to the two new cases, only Filipinos based abroad had tested positive for the virus, most of them on board the ill-fated cruise ship Diamond Princess. The first three cases of COVID-19 infections in the country were all Chinese nationals, one of whom succumbed to the illness, while the other two have reportedly recovered gone back to China.

The DOH also confirmed today three cases of foreign nationals who have tested positive for COVID-19 after visiting the Philippines. One is a 38-year-old Taiwanese national who visited the Philippines from Feb. 28 to March 3. Another is a resident of Sydney, Australia who visited Pangasinan between Feb. 13 and March 2. And the third is a Japanese national who also tested positive after visiting the country from Feb. 21 to 28. However, before coming here, he reportedly went to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.


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