Filipino diplomat at U.N. tests positive for coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A Filipino diplomat at the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the United Nations tested positive for COVID-19, said to be the first known coronavirus case at the UN in New York.

Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez said this on Friday, March 13, when asked to confirm a Reuters report that a diplomat from the Philippine mission to the UN tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Yes, one of our diplomats at the Philippine Mission to the UN in New York has tested positive for COVID," Meñez said in a text message.

"The necessary health and safety protocols have been implemented," he added.

In a statement on Friday, March 13, the Philippine Mission to the UN said Deputy Permanent Representative Kira Azucena informed other UN missions about the development on Thursday and notified the UN medical director’s office and the New York City health department. The latter advised them to "self-isolate."

"As of today, the Philippine Center in New York housing the Philippine Mission is on lockdown until further notice and its employees have been instructed to self-quarantine and to seek medical attention should they develop the symptoms," it said.

The mission said the staff, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday, "is in good condition."

"She last visited the United Nations last Monday, March 9, for about 30 minutes – from 12.50 to 1.20 pm. She was asymptomatic then," it said.

"The following day, Tuesday, March 10, she came down with flu-like symptoms and, in accordance with the Mission’s office protocol, did not report for work that day and saw her doctor. She tested positive for flu and was prescribed Tamiflu. She got the call today that she tested positive for COVID-19," it added.

The Philippine mission said it was closely coordinating with the New York health department.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr also commented on the case through Twitter on Friday, in response to a Reuters reporter who tweeted about the report.

"The infected is doing well; she's young, spritely, smart and taking some doctor prescribed meds. Thank you. I just talked to Kira," he said, referring to Acting Philippine Ambassador to the UN Kira Azucena who is in charge of the diplomat.

Locsin said the Filipino diplomat came from Florida before going back to New York. 

At least 103 Filipinos abroad have contracted the virus. The confirmed cases include the Filipino diplomat to the UN in New York, 80 from a cruise ship docked in Japan, 6 from a cruise ship docked in the United States, 7 in Singapore, 5 in Hong Kong, 2 in the United Arab Emirates, and 2 in  Lebanon. 

The Philippines has so far recorded 52 confirmed coronavirus cases, 5 of whom have died. 

Worldwide, the death toll due to the disease surpassed 4,600 cases while over 127,000 were infected in over 110 countries. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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