MANILA — The Philippine National Police will help trace some 300 people who came in contact with 2 confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday.
The health department has identified about 58 airline passengers who sat closest to the coronavirus patients from Wuhan City in central China, believed to be the outbreak's epicenter, he said.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were set to meet Wednesday on how they could help trace the patients' other contacts, said Duque.
"Sabi ko 48 hours, you have to complete that contact tracing... Kailangan magtulungan na lang," he told radio DZMM.
(I said in 48 hours, you have to complete that contact tracing. We just need to help each other.)
Duque earlier accused airlines of withholding the passengers' contact details, which Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines denied.
One of the 2 patients, a 44-year-old man, died after showing signs of improvement, making him the first novel coronavirus fatality outside China, authorities earlier said.
The new coronavirus strain has killed nearly 500 people, infected some 24,000 since it was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019.
Earlier this week, the Philippines banned travel to and from mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau as health experts have yet to find a cure.
A local carrier is ironing plans with authorities to bring home Filipinos who may be stranded in China "hopefully in the next few days", said Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal.