The Philippines reported the first death on Sunday outside of China from the novel coronavirus, deepening global fears about an epidemic that has claimed more than 300 lives.
The first fatality was a 44-year-old Chinese man, and the second confirmed case of the deadly virus, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Sunday.
The fatality was among the patients under investigation being monitored by the Department of Health. His traveling companion, a 38-year-old Chinese woman, was the first confirmed nCoV case in the country.
READ: PH confirms first virus case
The Chinese man died of pneumonia at the San Lazaro Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila, on Friday. He was admitted for pneumonia on Jan. 25, after experiencing fever, cough, and sore throat.
“Over the course of his admission in the said hospital. he developed severe pneumonia,” Duque said in a news briefing.
In the last few days, the patient was stable and showed signs of improvement, but his condition deteriorated in the last 24 hours, Duque said.
READ: Outbreak: 45 new fatalities in China
Duque said the two patients were isolated following strict isolation standards, and all health personnel who came in contact with them practiced stringent infection control measures and wore appropriate personal protective equipment.
Both patients were from Wuhan, China, who arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong on Jan. 21, 2020. They travelled to the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete.
The Department of Health (DOH) said as of Feb. 1, 24 patients under investigation tested negative for the novel coronavirus while two tested positive. Samples from four other patients were still being tested.
On Feb. 1, the DOH reported five additional patients under investigation, bring the total number to 36.
Twenty-three patients are currently isolated in hospitals, while ten have been discharged under strict monitoring.
The previously reported mortality, who was HIV-positive, was found to be negative for nCoV and died of pneumonia.
The department’s Epidemiology Bureau is conducting contact tracing of passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases, and has obtained the flight manifests from the airlines involved.
Contact tracing activities are ongoing in Cebu and Dumaguete, and in other places where the patients stayed.
Duque said the department is monitoring every development very closely.
READ: Bird flu hits city near nCoV epicenter
“This health event is fast-evolving and fluid. We are continuously recalibrating our plans and efforts as the situation develops,” Duque said.
“We are providing the public with constant updates and advisories as frequently as possible, so all I ask from the public now is to heed the advisories from official DOH channels and to refrain from sharing unverified and unvalidated information. I assure the public that we will keep you abreast of any information that we have,” he added.
READ: Public warned: No cure for n-CoV; only hygiene
The first fatality reported outside China came as an increasing number of governments around the world closed their borders to Chinese traveling from their country, in bid to stop it spreading.
Since emerging from the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, the coronavirus has infected 14,000 people across China and spread to 24 countries.
China has locked down Wuhan and surrounding cities in a bid to contain the virus, but it has continued to spread, prompting a hard-hit eastern city far from the epicenter to impose similar draconian measures on Sunday.
READ: DOH to big hospitals: You can’t turn away suspected nCoV patients
The country was also on the last day of an extended Lunar New Year holiday, meaning people are starting to return home on planes and trains, though many businesses will remain closed for at least another week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday declared the situation a global health emergency, and nations have taken extraordinary measures to build virtual fortresses against the disease.
The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Israel banned foreign nationals from visiting if they had been in China recently, and warned their own citizens from traveling there.
Mongolia, Russia and Nepal closed their land borders, while Papua New Guinea went as far as to ban anyone arriving from ports or airports across Asia.
The containment measures may have slowed the spread of the virus, but not stopped it.
The person who died in the Philippines was a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan, the WHO said.
The news of the man’s death was released shortly after Manila announced it would immediately halt the arrivals of any foreign travelers from China.
“This is the first reported death outside China,” Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative to the Philippines, told reporters in Manila.
In wake of the announcement, President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a ban on the entry of all foreign arrivals traveling from China. The travel restrictions also apply to Hong Kong and Macau as well.
Several major Philippines airlines have started cancelling or drastically reducing the number of flights to China. Philippine Airlines reported that it would cut the number of flights between the Manila and Chinese cities by half.
Philippines AirAsia said that it was suspending all inbound and outbound China flights until March 1, citing the “health situation.”
Britain, Russia and Sweden also this weekend confirmed their first infections.
READ: Rody bans travelers from China, HK
The death toll in China soared to 304 on Sunday, with authorities reporting 45 new deaths from the previous day.
There were 2,590 new confirmed cases in China, bringing the total to nearly 14,500.
The number of confirmed infections in China is far higher than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak of 2002-03.
SARS, which is caused by a pathogen similar to the new coronavirus and also originated in China, killed 774 people worldwide--—most of them in China and Hong Kong.
China has imposed unprecedented measures to curb people traveling—with the respiratory virus believed to be able to jump from person to person via droplets.
Wuhan, a city of 11 million people and the capital of Hubei province, has been under quarantine since Jan. 23.
Similar measures have been in place across all of Hubei, effectively sealing off more than 50 million people.
Custom authorities have ordered temperature checks at all exit-entry points in Beijing, according to the official news agency Xinhua.
All passengers are also required to fill in health declaration cards.
Returning travelers are also being checked and registered at residential compounds, while fever checks are in place in subway stations, plus many offices and cafes.
Car drivers in eastern Shandong Province are required to undergo temperature checks before entering highways, said Xinhua.
Train passengers in southwest metropolis Chongqing have to wear masks due to “a major increase in passenger flow” over the weekend. With AFPREAD: Chinese man probed for nCoV dies of pneumoniaREAD: From bats to humans? Analysis shows possible sources of virusREAD: China isolates 13 cities
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