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Palace seriously concerned over cases under investigation for nCoV infection

Malacañang on Wednesday expressed serious concern over the number of persons under investigation in the country for possible novel coronavirus infection.

Speaking to reporters, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to study and evaluate possible measures to be undertaken to prevent the entry of the 2019-nCoV in the country.

The Philippines remained free of the novel coronavirus although 23 persons are under investigation for possible infection, according to the Department of Health on Wednesday.

"We are looking at it with serious concern," Panelo said, adding the public should take precautionary measures such as proper hand washing and hygiene. "The idea there is to secure ourselves."

Panelo also stood by his previous statement that repatriating Filipinos in Wuhan City, China, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, might face challenges.

"With respect to the travel restriction and those who want to be repatriated here, we have already said that it might be difficult to repatriate them because we might even be risking them to contamination," he said.

"The best way, I suppose, is to let them stay there and follow protocols in China."

The Department of Foreign Affairs has already directed the Philippine consulate in Shanghai to immediately start processing Filipinos in China's Hubei province who wish to be repatriated. There are 300 Filipinos in Hubei, half of whom are living in its capital Wuhan.

Fifty Filipinos have reportedly indicated their wish to return home as of Tuesday night.

Health and Foreign Affairs officials earlier said Filipinos who will be repatriated from China must undergo a two-week quarantine. Officials said the government would shoulder the logistical and medical costs during the quarantine period. — RSJ, GMA News