Trust us, Duterte urges Filipinos amid coronavirus threat

With over 400 persons under investigation for the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte urged Filipinos to trust in government efforts to quell the spread of the virus.

In a taped message aired on Thursday, February 13, Duterte called on Filipinos to “remain calm,” as he gave assurances that officials were working with the World Health Organization and private groups in facing the “challenge and preparing for any eventuality.”

Duterte's message comes nearly two weeks after the Philippines recorded its first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus on January 30

“To my fellow Filipinos, I understand that many of you are worried about the world health and the well being of our loved ones. It is normal to feel anxious, concerned, and even afraid,” he said.

“I call on our people to remain calm, vigilant, responsible and I also ask your trust and cooperation, support as we face the challenge. Tayo ay magkaisa (Let us unite) together as one nation, this challenge can be overcome,” the President added.

Apart from this, Duterte gave an update on the current situation of the virus in the country reiterating the findings of health officials that no local transmission has been found in the Philippines to date. He likewise gave a recap of measures taken by the government to address the virus, including the repatriation of 30 Filipinos from China – ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak.

Duterte said the government was ready to bring home more Filipinos from China should they wish to be repatriated.

Meanwhile, he reminded the public to observe good cough etiquette, maintain personal hygiene, and practice frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of the virus.

Slow to act? Duterte earlier got flak for his initial response to the virus, with many saying he was slow to act compared to other leaders who swiftly put in place sweeping restrictions to quell the spread of the virus.

In his initial messages on the coronavirus, Duterte told Filipinos "everything is well" in the Philippines and that there's "nothing really to be extra scared of." He said public "hysteria" over the coronavirus was "unwarranted" and that the virus would “die a natural death” as he expressed confidence in medical advances. 

Duterte had also hit xenophobic calls to bar all Chinese from entering the Philippines, saying it was in “bad taste.” He later joked he would “slap” the virus while later saying the government was “on top” of the coronavirus threat.

The Department of Health has confirmed 3 cases of the novel coronavirus in the Philippines. These include the first death outside China – a 44-year-old Chinese man who traveled to the Philippines from Wuhan. The other two cases had recovered from the virus.

Read President Duterte’s full message below:

To my fellow Filipinos,

Today, we face the very grave threat of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. As of now there are only 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection. None of those infected is a Filipino national. There is no evidence yet of local community transmission here in our country.

The government, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), medical societies and partners in private sectors is addressing the challenge and preparing for any eventuality.

Last Sunday, we repatriated several of our countrymen from the affected areas in China. The government is taking care of them while they are in quarantine.

To our kababayans who remain in lockdown areas in China, I assure you that the government is ready to bring you home if you want. Hindi naman kayo papabayaan.

To my fellow Filipinos, I understand that many of you are worried about the world health and the well being of our loved ones. It is normal to feel anxious, concerned and even afraid.

Maging malinis. Hugasan 'yung kamay frequently, 'yung paulit-ulit. Kung every handshake mo, kung humatsing ka, takpan mo bunganga mo at tingnan mo hindi ka makahawa sa ibang tao. Kung ikaw naman ay may ubo, magmask ka na lang.

Maging maingat at 'yung mga impormasyon na importante na manggaling sa WHO, ay ating pakinggan. At huwag makinig diyan sa mga haka-haka. Sa gobyerno kayo nakatutok.

Nandiyan ang totoo sa gobyerno, wala diyan sa mga taong haka-haka na wala namang ginawa kung hindi manakot para kapwa niya tao.

I call on our people to remain calm, vigilant, responsible and I also ask your trust and cooperation, support as we face the challenge. Tayo ay magkaisa together as one nation, this challenge can be overcome.

Maraming salamat po.

– 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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