The initial batch of Filipinos who decided to leave China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak is set to arrive in the Philippines this weekend, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the repatriated Filipinos will arrive at Clark Airport in Pampanga on Saturday and will be transported to the drug rehabilitation facility inside Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija where they are expected to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte instructed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to go to Fort Magsaysay “to properly address the people affected in detail.”
The novel coronavirus (nCoV), which was first detected in China's Wuhan City, has already claimed 490 lives as of February 5, 2020 and infected over 20,000 people.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, around 300 Filipinos are in Hubei province and 150 of them are staying in its capital Wuhan, which is currently under lockdown to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Authorities assured the public that existing travel restrictions will not affect the repatriation process.
On Sunday, the Philippines imposed an entry ban on foreigners coming from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. The ban does not cover Filipino citizens and holders of Philippine permanent resident visas.
The Philippines imposed the travel ban after it reported that a visiting Chinese national has died of the virus — the first coronavirus fatality outside of China.
Also during the Cabinet meeting, Panelo said Duque assured the Cabinet that all safeguards are now in place in order to contain the virus.
Duque also requested the help of various agencies including the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Justice, as well as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to prevent the same from spreading in the country.
Duterte also said officials on the ground, particularly barangay captains, “should act in accordance with the tempo dictated by the national government or face charges for non-feasance,” according to Panelo.
The President earlier tasked the local government units to work with health officials in reporting and transporting individuals suspected to be infected by the novel coronavirus.
Duterte instructed the Presidential Communications Operations Office to release advisories and guidelines laid out by health experts “with an assurance that if the public will just observe the same, then they should be safe from being infected by the virus,” Panelo said.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, meanwhile, said they will be issuing advisories for students to avoid huge crowds and discouraging schools to conduct field trips. —KBK, GMA News