San Juan prayer hall frequented by coronavirus patient temporarily closed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 6) — The San Juan City government has temporarily closed the prayer hall at Greenhills Shopping Center following confirmation that the country's latest coronavirus case frequented the place.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, San Juan City Mayor Francis Zamora said the Muslim prayer area will remain shut "until the [Department of Health] gives the go signal for it to open."

Zamora said the prayer room was sanitized and disinfected immediately after the Department of Health confirmed that a 62-year-old Filipino man who regularly visited the place has been found to have the coronavirus disease officially known as COVID-19.

The man has no history of travel outside the Philippines, making him the country's first local case, Health Secretary Franisco Duque said in a media briefing. Duque was quick to clarify that this does not necessarily mark the start of community spread since this is just a single case.

Zamora also ordered the postponement of all planned public activities in the city this weekend and next week.

Zamora clarified that the man is not from San Juan, but confirmed that he was confined at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in the city and diagnosed with severe pneumonia. The man was transferred to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine after testing positive for the virus on March 5.

The management of Cardinal Santos Medical Center said those who handled the coronavirus patient have not exhibited red-flag symptoms for coronavirus infection.

"CSMS has taken all the necessary precautionary measures that all those who had contact with the patients have been processed following the protocols of DOH on quarantine, monitoring, and observation," the hospital said in a statement.

Zamora said local authorities are working closely with DOH, which has been doing contact tracing, to identify the people who had been in contact with the coronavirus patient. He said the patient's wife is giving them information.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergerie said one relative who had been with the patient has shown flu-like symptoms. She said the relative was quarantined in a hospital and tested for coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Greenhills Mall management said they are coordinating with the DOH and local government to ensure the safety of all shoppers, tenants, and employees. Zamora said the management has agreed to disinfect the entire shopping center "just to have extra precautionary measures" – even if the prayer hall is not located in the main "tiangge" area.

Zamora added that the Greenhills Muslim Traders Association, which runs the prayer hall, has been cooperating with the government.

The decision to close the area was made even as the World Health Organization said there is no need to do so over one confirmed case.

During a media briefing, Health Secretary Franciso Duque urged those who visited the worship area who have fever or respiratory symptoms to call the DOH hotline at (02)8-651-7800.

The Philippines now has five confirmed coronavirus cases following DOH's announcement Friday that two Filipinos contracted the virus. The other confirmed case is a 48-year-old man who visited Tokyo, Japan.

Earlier, three Chinese visitors have been infected with the virus – one of them died, while the remaining two have since recovered and left the country.

The new coronavirus has killed more than 3,300 people, mostly in China, since the outbreak began in Wuhan City in Hubei province in December last year. It has spread to at least 87 countries and territories, with nearly 98,000 people infected.