Health officials in the Philippines on Sunday said that a 44-year-old man from Wuhan had died of the deadly coronavirus, marking the first officially confirmed fatality from the disease outside China.
The Philippine Department of Health said that the man died on Saturday after being admitted for treatment to Manila’s San Lazaro hospital on Jan 25 for pneumonia, along with a 38-year-old woman, his travelling companion and the first reported case of the disease in the country.
“I would like to emphasise that this is an imported case with no evidence of local transmission,” Francisco Duque III, the country’s health secretary, said in a statement.
News of the fatality came after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday morning ordered a ban on the entry of anyone travelling from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The Philippine government said the ban would apply to foreigners and that Filipino citizens and permanent residents would be allowed to enter but would be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine after arriving in the country.
The temporary travel ban also barred Filipinos from visiting China and its special administrative regions.
There are 210,897 domestic workers from the Philippines working in Hong Kong as of 2018, according to Hong Kong government statistics.
Total coronavirus infections in China jumped 22 per cent to 14380 and deaths to 304, China’s National Health commission reported on Sunday. The 2590 new cases mark the biggest increase since the start of the outbreak.
The developments in The Philippines come as thousands of medical workers in Hong Kong plan to begin a five-day strike on Monday, demanding the government close its borders with mainland China. The Hospital Authority Employees Alliance said that more than 9,000 of its members had agreed to take part in the strike.
The union, which represents nurses and doctors as well as auxiliary staff, said the decision to strike was being viewed as a “last resort” because the healthcare system in the city was already overloaded and staff feared they would be further pressured by non-residents coming to Hong Kong to seek medical care.
“The incompetence of our government continues to bring us to the point of no return,” the union said in a statement.
A government spokesperson called for them to reconsider their decision, adding that chief executive Carrie Lam would hold a meeting later on Sunday to consider ways to prevent and control the disease. Ms Lam rejected calls to meet union representatives, a union spokesperson said on Sunday.
China’s foreign ministry hit back on Twitter at a US travel ban announced on Friday on foreign nationals who had recently visited China, calling it a “dishonest act” and an “overreaction that could only make things even worse”. The World Health Organization does not recommend the use of travel restrictions, saying they can waste resources and cause social disruption.
Travel restrictions within China intensified, as the city of Huanggang, which has the second-highest infection count after the city of Wuhan, restricted residents from leaving their homes. Only one household member is permitted to leave the house only once every two days in order to buy necessities, local media reported.
Bracing for financial markets to reopen on Monday, China’s banking and insurance regulators announced they would extend the grace period for firms to comply with new asset management rules in light of the virus outbreak.
The founder of Xibei, a major restaurant chain, warned of mass unemployment for the 30m-40m workers in the food and beverage sector, adding that he only had enough cash flow to pay staff for 3 months. In an interview with local media, Jia Guolong criticised the government’s “foolish policies” of asking employers to pay extra holiday wages as per Chinese law during the extended holiday period.
“If you push companies like us to collapse, that’s when social unrest will come,” Mr Jia said. “Mass unemployment, no income, a serious deficiency in purchasing power, wouldn’t this be an economic crisis?”
The mayor and party secretary of Huanggang city in Hubei province, near Wuhan where the outbreak started, were fired over mishandling the outbreak. Chinese state media reported that a total of 336 officials from Huanggang would be punished.
Multiple governments have raised restrictions on Chinese travellers in recent days. In addition to the US, Australia has also barred entry to foreign nationals who have recently visited China.
Russia, which recently closed its 4,000km land border with China, has also suspended visa-free travel for tourists to and from China, and has temporarily stopped Chinese nationals travelling on work visas, its government said on Sunday.
Singapore on Friday suspended the issuance of new visas as well as previously issued short term and multiple visit visas for China passport holders. Japan has barred entry to foreigners who have recently been to Hubei province, at the centre of the outbreak.
Taiwan is barring entry to Chinese nationals who have travelled to Guangdong province, while those who have recently travelled there will be quarantined for 14 days, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center said Saturday.
Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing, Nicolle Liu and Alice Woodhouse in Hong Kong and Guill Ramos in Manila