Philippines ‘ill-prepared’ as it grapples with coronavirus threat

The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has now killed more than 1,800 people and infected more than 72,000 others since it was first detected in China’s city of Wuhan in December.

In the Philippines, where the first death outside of China was reported, the government has faced intense criticism over its handling of the outbreak, and its decision to allow direct flights from China despite the lockdown in Hubei province, the epicentre of the epidemic.

A jittery public erupted in anger after it was revealed that the 44-year-old Wuhan resident, who later died, and a female companion, visited three cities in the Philippines before they were both tested positive of the virus in the capital, Manila.

In a Senate hearing following the first confirmed death linked to the virus, legislators questioned Health Secretary Francisco Duque III over the government’s system of identifying and tracking down people, who may have come in contact with the infected couple – a process known as contact tracing.

“I think it’s not just a failure of communication. I think it’s also a failure of leadership on the part of the health department,” said opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan.

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