Duque piqued at absence of WHO consensus on China virus scare

MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Friday said he is somewhat flustered that the World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to decide on whether or not to declare a global health emergency following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China.

“Sa totoo lang, ako’y medyo naiinis dito sa WHO dahil dalawang araw silang nag-meeting e hindi ko pa rin maintindihan ba’t di sila makarating sa isang consensus. Although, of course, ang paliwanag naman nila ang nakikita daw nila mas maraming mild cases kesa serious cases,” Duque said in an interview with dzMM on Friday.


(Honestly, I feel a bit frustrated with WHO because they’ve had meetings in the last two days, I don’t understand why they haven’t reached a consensus yet. Although, of course, they explained that they see more mild cases than serious cases).

“Nagpulong na naman ang WHO kahapon, so mamaya, aalamin ko kaagad kung ano ang naging consensus, kung idedeklara ba na global health emergency,” he added.


(WHO met again yesterday, so later, I will immediately find out what the consensus is, if they would declare a global health emergency).

With the declaration of a global health emergency, Duque said there will be a more “coordinated response” to the suspected new strain of the coronavirus, which has so far killed 25 people.

“Kung magdedeklara sila ng global health emergency e ‘di lahat tayo alam na natin… coordinated yung ating response…at ma-standardize ang lahat ng ating guidelines,” the health chief explained.

(If a global health emergency is declared, then all of us, we will know…our response will be coordinated and guidelines will be standardized).

“Mas maganda ang magiging tugon dito sa namamayagpag na novel coronavirus,” he added.

(The response to this novel coronavirus would be better).

Earlier, WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the organization still needs a thorough review on whether or not to declare the outbreak of novel coronavirus from China as a public health emergency of international concern.


This WHO’s emergency committee failed to reach conclusive findings during a meeting on Wednesday.

Abeyasinghe said the committee is discussing the pros and cons of declaring the outbreak of the virus—first reported in Wuhan, China—as a public health emergency of international concern.

He said Wednesday night’s deliberations were “inconclusive” but WHO is “expecting some conclusions later today.”

International media reported that 17 people have died while 547 others were affected by the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV in China alone.

Cases of the new coronavirus strain infection have been reported in the United States, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, as well as in Macao, a special administrative region of China, and the self-governing island of Taiwan.

Abeyasinghe said most of the fatalities had pre-existing medical conditions.

“We are not clear of the new deaths that have been unofficially reported, so WHO is working with authorities in China to better understand whether this virus is causing the death in otherwise healthy people or it is more likely that it is causing death in people that have pre-existing medical condition,” he said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel on Thursday.

He added that the declaration of the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern would depend on the mortality rate among patients.

But the problem, said the WHO official, is that the virus is causing respiratory infection.

He added that with the current flu season,  a lot of people may exhibit symptoms similar to the coronavirus infection like fever, cough, colds, and sore throat.

“So to determine if somebody is actually infected with this virus, you need a definitive test as we have seen in the case of the child that was detected in Cebu City in the Philippines,” said Abeyasinghe.

A five-year-old Chinese boy who recently traveled from Wuhan to Cebu City has tested positive for “non-specific pancoronavirus assay.”

His specimens were sent to a laboratory in Melbourne, Australia “to identify the specific coronavirus strain,” according to the Department of Health.

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TAGS: Department of Health, DoH, global health emergency, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Nation, news, novel coronavirus, WHO, World Health Organization
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