A collection of false rumors about coronavirus in the Philippines

January 27, 2020 - 2:15 PM
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A worker in protective suit looks at a man while he enters the Xizhimen subway station, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing
A worker in protective suit looks at a man while he enters the Xizhimen subway station, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Beijing, China January 27, 2020. (Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

The Manila Health Department dispelled rumors that a person in the capital has been sick with the deadly novel coronavirus.

During the celebration of the Lunar New Year over the weekend, several unverified information of coronavirus cases in Manila spilled over local social media. This prompted some schools in the capital to declare a suspension of classes on Monday, January 27.

It should be remembered that coronaviruses or CoVs are very common and most people actually get infected with a strain at some point in their lives.

What health organizations are monitoring is the new strain found in Wuhan, China called 2019-n-CoV or the Wuhan coronavirus which caused the outbreak of a respiratory illness in different parts of the world.

The previously suspected cases in Cebu and Kalibo have since been declared negative of the Wuhan coronavirus by the Department of Health.

The government also deported another 135 individuals who arrived in the country from Wuhan last Friday.

The social media scare

Raffy Tulfo shared a series of posts last January 26 of a possible Wuhan coronavirus in Binondo based on an e-mail he received from a health worker at the Metropolitan Medical Center (MMC) in Binondo, Manila.

A patient who supposedly came from Wuhan was rushed to the hospital’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine after experiencing coronavirus symptoms of cough and fever.

In another post, Tulfo mentioned that party-list Rep. Eric Yap of the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support Partylist or ACT-CIS was also involved in the situation. Yap supposedly attested that there was a patient from China.

Tulfo claimed in his latest update that the patient stayed in Wuhan for three hours, contrary to the statement of Dr. Arnold Pangan, the Manila City health officer.

Tulfo then shared a letter from the doctors of MMC that they are not yet certain if the patient had been afflicted with the Wuhan strain.

“Please avoid making any speculations and adding worries to all our healthcare workers in the hospital. Rest assured that the ICC is doing our job to handle such a case,” parts of the post read.

Each of Tulfo’s posts on the matter made rounds more than 10,000 times on the platform.

SECOND UPDATE re possible nCoV case in Binondo:10:45pm, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.Isang liham ang ipinadala ng mga…

Posted by Raffy Tulfo in Action on Sunday, January 26, 2020

 

These eventually reached Twitter and set off a wave of panic among some users.

Response to this scare: No confirmation yet

The DOH most recently announced that it is currently monitoring at least 11 PUIs in different parts of the country—two in Metro Manila, one in Mimaropa, one in Northern Mindanao, one in Western Visayas, one in Eastern Visayas and three in Central Visayas.

The Manila Public Information Office also said that there is no confirmed case yet. Pangan, the city health officer, identified the patient as a Chinese worker of an offshore gaming firm. He was hospitalized at the MMC last January 25.

Despite being diagnosed with community-acquired pneumonia, he has no travel history to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak and “no history of exposure to a host or positive case.”

“MHD Surveillance Team, in coordination with the DOH surveillance, and as per investigation, patient has fever and cough but negative on history of travel to Wuhan, China, and no history of exposure to a host or positive case,” Pangan said.

“As of the moment, the patient is well and does not have fever,” he added.

The Medical City also disproved posts that they have a patient ill with the disease in their facility. It also advised the public against sharing unverified information on social media.

“Contrary to the news spreading on social media, there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in The Medical City. TMC has appropriately trained personnel capable of evaluating possible PUIs safely and measures are in place to ensure that both patients and staff are kept safe at all times,” its account on Facebook said.

Contrary to the news spreading on social media, there is no confirmed case of Coronavirus in The Medical City.TMC has…

Posted by The Medical City on Sunday, January 26, 2020

 

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno also told his constituents the same on making speculations online. He then encouraged them to be vigilant and seek the nearest health clinic or center should they feel symptoms of the disease.

“Ngayon naman, sa lahat ng ating mga barangay, nakikisuyo ang ating MHD na kayo’y makipagtulungan by just being vigilant. Kayo rin, tayong lahat, huwag kayong matatakot kapag kayo ay may ubo. Mas maganda magpagamot at magpa-check up,” the local mayor said.

In other countries

The Wuhan coronavirus has afflicted more than 2,700 people in Asia alone, according to the New York Times.

As of Monday, a total of 80 have died because of it in China.

Outside Asia, there are five validated cases in the United States, three in France and four in Australia.

The Chinese government had since locked down the entire Hubei province, where Wuhan is located.