Duterte declares public health emergency due to coronavirus – spokesperson

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 8) — President Rodrigo Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency upon the recommendation of health officials following a confirmed local transmission of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo confirmed to CNN Philippines.

A written order for the declaration, however, is not expected to be released until Monday during Panelo's regular press briefing at Malacañang.

Panelo said among the possible effects of the declaration are price freezes on certain goods and faster procurement processes for medical supplies.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque earlier said the declaration will allow for easier access to financial resources to control the spread of the disease in the country.

Under Republic Act 11332, a public health emergency refers to an “occurrence of an imminent threat of an illness or health condition which could pose a high probability of a large number of deaths…widespread exposure to an infectious agent.”

The Department of Health raised "Code Red sublevel 1" on Saturday after it confirmed that one of the new COVID-19 patients -- a 62-year-old man from Cainta, Rizal -- did not have recent travel history to other countries. The patient's 59-year-old wife also tested positive for the infection, making her the second case of local transmission.

Code Red means a "preemptive call to ensure that national and local government and public and private health care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases."

The agency immediately recommended a national public health emergency.

Duque earlier said the department will raise the alert to sub-level two once several transmissions are reported, which will trigger community-wide lockdowns. Schools and work may also be suspended under this alert level.

The country currently has six confirmed COVID-19 cases, including three Filipinos. Aside from the couple, a 48-year-old man who works for Taguig-based consulting firm Deloitte Philippines also tested positive for the infection. He recently traveled to Tokyo, Japan and returned on March 3 on board flight PR421 from Haneda Airport.

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

CNN Philippines' Janine Peralta, Catherine Modesto and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.