Japan to help Philippines test suspected coronavirus cases: health chief

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2020 10:09 AM | Updated as of Jan 29 2020 10:32 AM

A technician works in a laboratory for manufacturing testing kits for the new coronavirus at a medical laboratory company Da An Gene Co, as the country is hit by an outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China Jan. 28, 2020. cnsphoto/Reuters

MANILA - Japanese experts will help the Philippines screen potential cases of a novel coronavirus outbreak that the world is trying to contain, Manila's health minister said Wednesday. 

A government research institute in Muntinlupa can only check for the presence of coronavirus, but cannot identify whether this is the same strain that has killed more than 100 since emerging from China a few weeks ago, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque. 

Authorities are checking 24 suspected cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) locally, their specimens sent to experts in Australia for laboratory tests. Three other people earlier tested negative for the new pathogen, he said. 

Japan will give the Philippines a "primer" that can determine whether the coronavirus that infected a patient has the same genetic code as the strain from China, eliminating the need to consult Australian experts. 

"Tumatagal ang panahon dito sa Australia e. Sabi ko, no, kailangan magkaroon tayo ng sariling kakayanan. Tutulong ang Japanese na magbibigay po sa atin nitong primer," he told DZMM. 

(It takes longer if we send results to Australia. I said no, we need to have our own capacity to check cases. The Japanese will help us get the virus primer.) 

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Authorities will bring home Filipinos from the Chinese central city of Wuhan, where the 2019-nCoV was first detected, the foreign department said Tuesday. 

The health department is checking where it can quarantine travelers from Wuhan for 14 days, the incubation period for the novel coronavirus, said Duque. 

China said Wednesday deaths due to the novel coronavirus had risen to 132 with nearly 6,000 people infected. Governments and companies around the world have warned against travel to China and readied their citizens there for possible repatriation. 

Authorities urge the public to wash their hands, hydrate well, avoid crowded places and wear face masks to avoid getting sick. 

More than 50 million people have been locked down in and around Wuhan, the central industrial city where the outbreak first began, in a bid by authorities to stop the new coronavirus infection. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping called the virus a "demon" during talks on Tuesday with the head of the World Health Organization in Beijing, and pledged a "timely" release of updates about the crisis. --- With a report from Agence France-Presse