MALACAÑANG on Tuesday said there was no need for a travel ban to the Middle East despite the death of a Filipino health worker infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Department of Health (DOH) does not recommend such a ban.

“There are no travel restrictions to and from the Middle East countries as there is no epidemic or outbreak there,” Coloma said in a press conference.

But, he reminded Filipinos traveling to the Middle East “to avoid contact with persons showing influenza-like symptoms and to observe frequent hand washing.”

Coloma also asked those returning from the Middle East who become ill within two weeks upon arrival to delay visits to crowded places and to seek immediate medical attention.

“Hospitals have been instructed to report to the DOH any patient who may be suspected to have contracted the MERS coronavirus infection,” he said.

Coloma advised those who recently traveled to the Middle East and developed a respiratory illness to seek immediate treatment.

“These cases are reported to the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) confirms the diagnosis,” he said.

Coloma added that the Bureau of Quarantine is actively screening travelers at all points of entry.

On Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed that an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) died in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after contracting MERS-CoV.

This is the second reported case of a Filipino dying of MERS-CoV. The first case, a 41-year old Filipina nurse who died in a hospital facility in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, was reported in August last year.

Five other Filipino workers in the UAE are quarantined.

The DOH advised the public to report anyone who exhibits “severe respiratory illness with travel history to the Middle East.”

The agency added that possible MERS-CoV cases should be “reported to the NEC and RITM.”

Meanwhile, Coloma assured the media that the government is providing assistance to Filipino nationals based in these areas.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] through the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi dispatched on April 12 an assistance-to-nationals [ATN] team to Al Ain [1-1/2 hours from Abu Dhabi] to determine the condition of the Filipinos who were reported to have contracted the MERS coronavirus infection,” he said.

“The Embassy is continuously coordinating with the health authority of Abu Dhabi in monitoring cases of Filipinos possibly affected with MERS coronavirus and the DFA urges Filipino nationals to heed the advice of health authorities,” Coloma added.


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