Filipino coronavirus case in Singapore didn't travel to China

SINGAPORE (UPDATED) – The Singaporean government is investigating the close contacts of the first Filipino case of the novel coronavirus here, as the patient, whose identity Singapore has not disclosed, did not recently travel to China.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Yap confirmed these details to Rappler late Sunday evening, February 23, as he said the Philippine embassy is ready to help the Filipino coronavirus patient.

"The patient has no recent travel history to China, and they are still investigating his close contacts to find out more about where he could have gotten the virus from," Yap told Rappler.

Yap said it is possible that the patient's close contacts are also Filipinos, "but it's hard to speculate." He noted that Singapore's protocol for all coronavirus patients here is to trace their close contacts and to test them for the virus, if necessary.

The Filipino "is now in isolation" at Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases, said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay earlier on Sunday.

It was also on Sunday evening when Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) advised the Philippine embassy about the Filipino patient, Yap said.

The most that the MOH disclosed was that the Filipino is a male permanent resident of Singapore, according to Yap. The patient needs to give his consent to the Singaporean government before his identity can be disclosed to the Philippine embassy.

"We do not know the identity because the MOH has not shared it with us for privacy reasons," the ambassador said.

Yap said that based on the Singaporean government's protocol, Singapore will shoulder the hospital bills of the Filipino patient and all other novel coronavirus cases. (READ: Singapore announces $4.6-billion boost to fight virus)

But the Philippine embassy can help by contacting his relatives or flying them into Singapore, if needed, using the Philippine government's fund to assist overseas Filipinos.

"We stand ready to render all the assistance that he would need," Yap said.

'No reason to panic'

Singapore has at least 89 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, according to data from the Singaporean government as of Sunday evening. Of these cases, 65 contracted the virus in Singapore while 24 got it outside the country.

The Singaporean government said 49 patients have been discharged, 35 remain stable, and 5 others remain in critical condition. No one has died due to the virus in Singapore.

Singapore now has the 3rd highest number of novel coronavirus patients outside China. The country used to have the biggest number of patients outside China, but South Korea now has at least 602 confirmed cases. Japan has 132.

These figures exclude the 634 patients from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, docked in Japan.

Sought for words of reassurance for Filipinos in Singapore, Yap said: "My advice is still the same: We should remain calm. Yes, there is one case, but we should continue to remain calm and continue to exercise vigilance. We really should continue to follow the advisories from the Ministry of Health."

He added that "the Singapore government has actually been doing a good job in terms of implementing their protocols." He pointed out, for instance, that the number of novel coronavirus cases has been going down while the number of discharged patients has been going up.

"The trend is positive, and I personally feel that the situation now is more stable than it was maybe one or two weeks ago. I think we should just continue to be careful, to be cautious, but there's no reason to be panicking," Yap said. – Rappler.com