MANILA (Updated) -- The Philippines now has five confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed Friday, March 6.
The two new cases involved a 48-year-old and 62-year-old Filipinos, both male.
The 48-year-old Filipino recently visited Tokyo, Japan and returned to the Philippines on February 25. He experienced chills and fever on March 3 and was tested positive for Covid-19 on March 5.
"He is currently stable and admitted at the RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine)," said DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The 62-year-old Filipino, on the other hand, is suffering from severe pneumonia. He has hypertension and diabetes mellitus and he experienced cough last February 25.
He sought medical consultation last March 1 in a hospital in Manila and was admitted at the RITM. Specimens were collected on March 4 and he tested positive for the new virus on March 5, added Duque.
The DOH said contact tracing is now being done for the two new cases and samples have already been collected from those who had close contacts with the fourth and fifth cases.
Duque said the fifth case has no known history of travel outside the country, but stressed that it is still premature to say that there is local or community transmission in the Philippines.
"There is no transmission to speak of as of yet because we only have one. That's why we are doing contact tracing so as to establish whether or not there are cases or clustering of cases. But now, it's premature to say there is a local transmission," said Duque.
"As soon as we do get confirmation of more positive cases, that's the time that we can say there is local transmission," he added.
World Health Organization Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, however, believes that local transmission may have already occurred in the country.
"Even the fifth case is a local transmission. But getting another case in a very close contact does not mean wide spread transmission. We know that this disease is transmitted upon close contact," Abeyasinghe said.
Duque said the fifth case is known to have regularly visited a Muslim prayer hall in Barangay Greenhills, San Juan City, Manila, thus the DOH called on previous visitors of the prayer hall who are presenting fever and respiratory symptoms to call the DOH hotline (02) 8-651-7800 local 1149 to 1150 for proper referral to appropriate health facility.
"DOH is also in close coordination with the concerned local government units for concerted action on identifying persons who had interaction with the confirmed cases and strengthening infection prevention and control protocols," Duque said.
"The priority intervention is the contact tracing. We will have to wait for the results of the contact tracing and coordination with local government units," he added.
DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, for her part, said one relative and close contact of the fifth case already showed symptoms of the new virus and has already been admitted.
"We already have one relative, which has been with the patient all throughout, who has experienced symptoms, and is now with him in our referral hospital. The specimen was collected and we're just awaiting results," said Vergeire.
"These recent developments are significant but we are prepared to respond to its potential consequences. Our priority is to protect our health workers and the most vulnerable populations. We can still contain the spread of the virus in the country, that is why we are encouraging the public to practice proper handwashing, social distancing, and cough etiquette," Duque said.
He also called on the public to be vigilant and continue to do their part in containing the disease.
The Philippines' first three confirmed cases involved three Chinese nationals.
The first two cases were a 38-year-old female Chinese national and his 44-year-old boyfriend who visited Cebu, Dumaguete and Manila in January. The boyfriend died in Manila due to severe pneumonia.
The third case involved a 60-year-old Chinese national who traveled to Bohol and Cebu.
Both the 38-year-old and 60-year-old patients were discharged from hospitals after they tested negative for the virus. (LMY/HDT/SunStar Philippines)