FEBRUARY 13, 2020 – President Rodrigo Duterte assured Filipinos trapped in areas locked down by Chinese authorities that they will not be abandoned and will be brought home as death toll from a rapidly spreading virus continued to rise to more than 1,300 people.
The immensely popular leader, in a recorded video message by his communications office, said no one will be left behind and promised to bring them all home safe.
Thirty-two Filipinos from China was brought home on Sunday in a chartered flight from Wuhan, epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak which has infected more than 45,000 people in 25 countries around the world.
“To our kababayans who remain in lockdown areas in China, I assure you that the government is ready to bring you home if you want,” Duterte said, in a more serious tone, a complete departure from his curse-laden public speeches. “Hindi naman kayo papabayaan.”
The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) released the president’s video message after Singapore leader’s public address to control panic in the city-state due the COVID scare went viral in the social media
Chinese authorities had locked down dozens of cities in a bid to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that has killed more 1,300 people, mostly in China. One fatality was reported in Manila.
In Wuhan City alone, the epicenter of the virus, there are around 150 Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. Twenty-six were already repatriated and are put under quarantine for 14 days at the New Clark City Athletes’ Village in Capas, Tarlac.
Duterte also said the government is closely working with the World Health Organization and medical partners in the private sector to address the threat of outbreak.
In the Philippines, there had been three confirmed cases but involved Chinese tourists.
“To my fellow Filipinos, I understand many of you are worried about the world health and the well being of our loved ones,” Duterte said. “It is normal to feel anxious, concerned and even afraid.”
He also appealed to the public to avoid sharing false news about the virus and only get information from the government.
“I call on our people to remain calm, vigilant, responsible and I also ask your trust and cooperation, support as we face the challenge,” the popular leader said.
Duterte earlier said Filipinos have nothing to be “extra-scared” of the virus and urged them to stop the “sinophobia” or sentiments against Chinese nationals.
But he ordered a travel ban on China, Macau, and Hong Kong as a precautionary measure, despite the global health authorities’ remark that placing travel restrictions are less effective in addressing outbreaks.
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