Taiwan and Australia say two people test positive for COVID-19 after traveling to Philippines

Travelers wearing face masks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 <i>Photo: Jonathan Cellona / ABS-CBN News</i>
Travelers wearing face masks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 Photo: Jonathan Cellona / ABS-CBN News

Two people who returned to their home countries of Australia and Taiwan after traveling to the Philippines have tested positive for COVID-19, both countries’ health ministries confirmed yesterday.

It’s unclear how the two foreign travelers would have contracted the disease in the Philippines, as the country currently has no known infections, but if they did, it would be the Philippines’ first recorded local transmissions of the virus, and the first new cases in weeks.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said that their 44th case is a 30-year-old male who returned on March 3 from a five-day trip to the Philippines with his friends. The man, a resident of northern Taiwan, consulted with medical professionals after experiencing dry throat and fatigue on the day he arrived. He was reported as a suspected case before laboratory results confirmed the diagnosis.

“Related investigation suggested it is an imported case linked to the Philippines,” the body said in its statement, without elaborating on how they arrived at that conclusion.

New South Wales’ Ministry of Health, meanwhile, said that a 60-year-old woman who returned from the Philippines on March 3 aboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J39 is one of six new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sydney. “Her travel details are being obtained and will be disclosed if she posed a risk to any other passengers on her flight,” the ministry said.

Read: Third Filipino tests positive of COVID-19 in Hong Kong

As of this morning, the Department of Health (DOH) in the Philippines is monitoring 41 possible COVID-19 cases in over a dozen regions across the country. However, so far, the country has only seen three confirmed cases — all Chinese tourists.

However, with scores of Filipinos overseas having contracted the virus, most of them aboard the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship, public skepticism about the DOH’s ability to detect the virus is mounting.

DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told radio show DZMM this morning that they’re still “getting details” on the two foreign cases, but once they confirm that the foreigners traveled to the Philippines, they’ll be tracing people who had close contact with them.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia’s temporary travel ban on Filipinos, which was imposed earlier this week, only covers tourists and travelers for the Muslim pilgrimage of Umrah, and that Filipino workers will still be allowed to enter the Middle Eastern kingdom.


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