Filipino bishops urge caution amid coronavirus report

Passengers are screened at an airport in Manila Philippines following a coronavirus outbreak in China Credit Jes Aznar  Getty Images Passengers are screened at an airport in Manila, Philippines following a coronavirus outbreak in China. | Jes Aznar / Getty Images.

Filipino Church leaders have urged parishioners to be extra cautious amidst a deadly outbreak of coronavirus, which has affected hundreds of people in China and spread to other countries as well.

Bishop Oscar Florencio, who oversees the Bishops' Commission on Health Care, encouraged residents to be vigilant and to quickly check into a hospital if they believe they have the illness.

"First and foremost, we have to exercise prudence here, both personally and collectively," he said, according to

"If one thinks he needs to see a doctor because of some suspicion of corona virus-like symptoms, please let us be prudent enough to do it, so we can arrest the sickness right away."

Last month, an outbreak of 2019-nCoV was reported in Chinese city of Wuhan. Believed to be a new strain within the coronavirus family, the virus can cause fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. In some cases, it can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure, and severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Over 600 people have been diagnosed with the virus, which has killed at least 18 people in China. As of Thursday, three Chinese cities - Wuhan, Huanggang, and Ezhou - have been placed in a temporary lockdown, restricting travel by trains, planes, and ferries.

In recent weeks, the virus has also been confirmed in Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. This week, a 30-year-old man was found to be infected in the state of Washington after returning from a trip to China.

A five-year-old boy, who had recently traveled to Wuhan, was admitted to the hospital in Cebu City, Philippines, for symptoms of the virus. The Philippines' Health Department said it is investigating the case. The boy, who is in stable condition, tested positive for a nonspecific pancoronavirus, and samples have been sent to Australia to identify the specific strain of the virus.

The virus was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Dec. 31. WHO said Thursday that while the situation constitutes an emergency in China, it has not yet reached the status of a global emergency, "given its restrictive and binary nature."

"We should exercise some extra vigilance because we are responsible also for the greater good of the majority. Let us do things swiftly but let us not create panic as well," Bishop Florencio stressed, according to the Manilla Bulletin.

Thermal scanners have been installed at airports in the Philippines to help screen travelers who may have the disease.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga has also encouraged his diocese to pray for the prevention of a global outbreak.

He released a special prayer, according to the Manilla Bulletin, which calls on God and says, "We pray that you control and prevent a global epidemic of coronavirus. We fervently ask that you display your power and stop the rapid spread of this deadly virus. Manifest your presence to those who have already been infected. Give them hope and courage and may your miraculous healing hands be upon them."

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