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Manila reports first virus death outside of China

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Chinese man's death leads to tighter travel restrictions in the Philippines

MANILA: The Philippines yesterday said that a 44-year-old Chinese man had died of the new coronavirus, the first fatality outside of China, prompting tighter travel restrictions for both Filipinos and foreigners.

The Department of Health said there were now two confirmed infections in the Philippines, including the man from Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, who died on Saturday.

The man, who was admitted to a government hospital in Manila on Jan 25, had developed severe pneumonia, the department said.

In China, the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak had reached 304 as of the end of Saturday, state broadcaster CCTV said yesterday, citing the country's National Health Commission, with recorded cases of infections at more than 14,000.

The man who died was a companion of a 38-year-old Chinese woman, also from Wuhan, who was the first to test positive for the virus in the Philippines.

Both patients arrived in the Philippines via Hong Kong on Jan 21, the Health Department said.

While the patient who died was "stable and showed signs of improvement" during his last few days in the hospital, his condition deteriorated in the 24 hours before he died, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

"We are currently working with the Chinese Embassy to ensure the dignified management of the remains according to national and international standards to contain the disease," he said.

Mr Duque said all measures to contain the spread of the virus were being strictly implemented and followed, including by health personnel who came in contact with the two patients.


"This health event is fast-evolving and fluid. We are continuously recalibrating our plans and efforts as the situation develops," Mr Duque said.

Twenty-four patients previously under investigation for infection tested negative for the coronavirus, while samples from four other patients were still being tested, the Health Department said.

Passengers aboard the flights of the two positive cases were being traced.

Cebu Air, which operates Cebu Pacific, said it was working closely with health authorities to contact all passengers aboard those two flights on Jan 21.

The two patients had taken Cebu Pacific flights from Hong Kong to Cebu and from Cebu to Dumaguete in central Philippines, the airline said in a statement. The cabin crew and pilots on the flights have been quarantined, and the aircraft have undergone thorough disinfection, it added.

Cebu Air and two other Philippine carriers, Philippine Airlines and the local unit of AirAsia have cancelled flights to China this month, joining many others around the world that have done the same.

The Health Department's announcement came shortly after the Philippine government expanded its travel ban to include all foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau. It had previously restricted only those from Hubei.

Foreigners who have been to China, Hong Kong and Macau within 14 days of travelling to the Philippines will also be barred from entering the country, aviation officials said. - REUTERS