House health panel chief seeks ₱1-B budget for coronavirus response

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 3) — The chairperson of the House Committee on Health is seeking an additional ₱1-billion budget for the Department of Health to address the threat of the novel coronavirus.

Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan said the department can use the supplemental budget to enhance capabilities of frontline offices in dealing with the new coronavirus, officially known as 2019-nCoV.

“It is about time that Congress approved a supplemented budget to fight the spread of nCOV in the country and protect the Filipinos from this deadly virus,” Tan said Monday.

A portion of the additional funding could also be spent on strengthening the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, where confirmatory tests for patients suspected of being infected with 2019-nCoV are carried out, she said.

“I believe that it is also about time that we strengthened the RITM because currently it has only 60 beds for patients with infectious diseases requiring tertiary care, seven of which is for [persons under investigation,]” Tan said.

The lawmaker said she is also eyeing a congressional investigation to determine the preparedness for health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.

Health authorities are now looking at 80 patients who may have been infected with 2019-nCoV, including eight people who came in close contact with the Chinese couple who tested positive for the virus.

A 44-year-old Chinese man, the partner of a 38-year-old Chinese woman who is the country’s first confirmed case of 2019-nCoV, succumbed to acute respiratory disease. He is also the first death due to the virus outside of China.

Health authorities have assured that they are fully-equipped and ready to deal with the disease.

The country has imposed a wider travel ban, expanding it to include all of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. The updated policy also prompted some airlines to cancel flights between the Philippines and mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak has killed 362 people and infected more than 17,300 globally, CNN reported Monday.

The number of infected people have surpassed that of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but is significantly less lethal. 2019-nCoV's mortality rate stands between two and three percent.