Coronavirus in Philippines: The Covid-19 risk, impact and measures

Philippines, one of the high-risk countries from the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, recorded the first death outside China.

When did coronavirus reach the Philippines?

The first case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV, now Covid-19) in the Philippines was confirmed on 30 January 2020, in a 38-year old woman who arrived from Wuhan. Two days later, the Philippines recorded the first death outside China on 01 February 2020.

As of 02 March, Philippines coronavirus cases stand at three including one death. One person has recovered and discharged from the hospital.

Coronavirus affected on Diamond Princess cruise ship

Seven passengers onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and more than half of the crew are from the Philippines, among who 80 have been confirmed to have contracted the virus.

The Philippines government repatriated 445 its citizens on board the ship including ten recovered cases on 25 February. The evacuees have been placed under a two-week quarantine at New Clark City in Capas.

A total of 70 confirmed cases were not allowed to board the evacuation flight.

How risky is coronavirus to the Philippines?

Due to its proximity to China, the Philippines is at a far greater risk of witnessing increased cases of the novel coronavirus infection compared to other countries.

The Philippines is also home to hundreds of workers from China working in the Philippine Offshore Gambling Operation (firms offering online gambling services). More than 230,000 migrant Filippinos often referred to as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are also working in China particularly Hong Kong and Macau as household workers.

A temporary ban was imposed on the workers from travelling to China or its special administrative regions after the coronavirus outbreak on 2 February. The ban was lifted on 18th February allowing OFWs to return to Hong Kong and Macau.

Manila is among the top 30 global cities receiving airline passengers from 18 high-risk cities in China, according to WorldPop which ranked Philippines 14th among the 30 high-risk countries.

Chinese nationals account for the majority of the tourist population visiting the country as trade and cultural relations have increased between the two countries in the recent past.

Coronavirus Philippines update: First death outside China

The 44-year old Chinese national, who died, was the relative of the first patient diagnosed with 2019-nCoV. The patient developed severe pneumonia.

Preventive measures taken by the Philippines government

The Philippines government is taking several steps to control the spread of the virus, including travel restrictions, closure of schools and colleges, as well as training schools of the Philippines National Police.

The government announced on 2 February 2020 that all persons except Filipino citizens and permanent resident visa holders were temporarily barred from entering the country.

A temporary ban on Filipinos from travelling to China or its special administrative region was also imposed. A mandatory 14-day quarantine for Filipinos returning to from China or its special administrative region was announced.

Further, visa upon arrival for Chinese nationals has been temporarily suspended.

Travel ban to South Korea

The Philippines government issued a temporary ban on 26 February on all citizens from travelling to South Korea, as the country reported a spike in the number of confirmed cases.

Further, people from the affected regions of South Korea including Gyeongbuk, Daegu and Cheongdo have been banned from entering into the country.

Coronavirus in the Philippines: Measures at airports

The Philippines Government announced travel restrictions to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau to minimise the spread. It also banned entry of passengers from the three countries.

Airlines cancelled flights from Philippines to China resulting in stranding.

Face masks shortage – importing from India and Thailand

Philippines witnessed a surge in demand for face masks as fears over the coronavirus infection increased, despite assurance from the government that there is no need to wear face masks yet.

The government reiterated that healthcare workers and patients with symptoms of the disease should be given priority for masks.

The Philippines International Trading Corporation (PITC), meanwhile, identified two face mask suppliers from India and Thailand to meet the demand for face masks.

The suppliers are expected to take more than 30 days to supply the masks. The India-based supplier is expected to supply one million units, while the exact number of face masks that the Thailand-based supplier can supply is yet to be determined.

The masks will be imported either by the DoH or the PITC.

Coronavirus outbreak: Impact on the Philippines

Metric Value
Population 106.65 million (2018)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) $330.9bn (2018)
Trade in Services 19.7%
Trade Balance Deficit ($3.3bn)
Biggest Importer China (22.9% in November 2019)
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