Filipino civil aviation authorities yesterday banned flights to and from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of an outbreak of a deadly new strain of coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCoV.
After a special meeting yesterday afternoon, the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) said they were banning flights indefinitely to prevent the virus from spreading in the Philippines amid reports that 25 people have so far died because of the disease.
“We all know that Wuhan is the ground zero of the outbreak that’s happening now,” CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla told radio station DZMM. However, he said officials have no plans yet of banning flights from other parts of China, and that they are waiting for the World Health Organization’s recommendations.
Pan Pacific Airlines and Royal Air Philippines each have direct flights connecting Kalibo, Aklan to Wuhan six days a week, CNN Philippines reports. The country’s main airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, does not offer flights to or from Wuhan.
As of this morning, there have been at least 830 people infected with the SARS-like disease, which was first reported in December and has been linked to a Wuhan seafood market that has since been shut down. After the disease quickly spread to other parts of China — and to several other countries in the region, as well as the United States — Chinese authorities put the entire city of Wuhan on lockdown yesterday.
The lockdown was expanded to the nearby cities of Huanggang and Ezhou, affecting the movement of at least 20 million people. To stem the spread of the disease, Lunar New Year celebrations have been suspended in the country, including major events in Beijing.
As of press time, there are no confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV yet in the Philippines. However, the Health Department is still waiting for tests to confirm whether a 5-year-old Chinese boy in Cebu City diagnosed with coronavirus is suffering from the Wuhan strain. The child is reportedly in stable condition and no longer has any symptoms.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration said yesterday that they have tracked down the family of a Chinese man who tested positive for 2019-nCoV in Hong Kong, GMA News reports. The family had traveled on to Manila after Hong Kong authorities said they were asymptomatic.
The bureau said the family is now being monitored and might be referred to the Bureau of Quarantine for tests.