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Call for vigilance against MERS

MANILA (UCAN) : The bishops of The Philippines called on the government to exercise due diligence in ensuring that people are protected from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS), which is threatening the Asian region, on July 7, a day after it was confirmed by the Department of Health that a 36-year-old foreigner from the Middle East, who had travelled to Manila, tested positive to the virus.

The latest victim is a non-Filipino and is the second case affecting The Philippines. The Department of Health announced that the first is a Filipino nurse who returned home in February after working in the Middle East, but GMA News reported on February 20 that she had recovered.

“Since the virus has apparently already entered our shores, the government must make sure that it has the resources and the capacity to treat it and prevent it from further spreading,” Father Jerome Secillano, a spokesperson of the bishops’ conference, said.

The Department of Health announced that it is monitoring eight people who have had close contact with the patient and they will remain in isolation until it can be shown they have not contracted the disease.

The man who tested positive has been isolated at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Manila, but GMA News reported on July 10 that he was to be discharged over the weekend of July 11 and 12.

The government assured the public that the situation is under control.

“President (Noynoy) Aquino has tasked the Health Department to tighten surveillance and quarantine measures at ports of entry and to ensure the prompt reporting by all hospitals of patients who show symptoms of the disease,” presidential spokesperson, Herminio Coloma, said.

The bishops advised people in June to temporarily forego travel to South Korea due to the reported occurrence of MERS in the country.

Some 55,000 Filipinos are working in South Korea, according to figures kept by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. “We must take necessary and essential precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” the chairperson of the Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, Bishop Ruperto Cruz Santos, from Balanga, commented.

The Philippines has been on alert for the possible entry of the virus, as 185 people in South Korea have been diagnosed with the disease and there have been 33 fatalities.

As of June 2015, the World Health Organisation has recorded 1,338 laboratory-confirmed cases since 2012 in 26 countries, including at least 475 deaths.

MERS was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012. The virus can be acquired through close contact with people infected by the virus and air droplets from coughing and sneezing.


Symptoms of the virus are coughing, difficulty in breathing, high fever and diarrhea, among others.