Panagbenga Festival opening parade canceled amid novel coronavirus scare

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Baguio City (CNN Philippines, January 31) – The opening parade of the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio on Saturday has been canceled as a precautionary measure against the novel coronavirus, Mayor Benjamin Magalong said Friday.

"After due deliberation, I am canceling the Panagbenga Street Parade tomorrow (February 1)," Magalong said in a briefing at the Baguio City Hall.

He later clarified that he will only postpone the opening parade. The Panagbenga Festival, which has been celebrated in the Summer Capital for over two decades, is known as a flower festival. Panagbenga means "season of blooming" in the local language.

Magalong said there is no decision to postpone the three main events -- Grand Street Dance, Float Parade and Session Road in Bloom.

The mayor said he is also postponing “all crowd-drawing activities for the next 3 weeks (February 1 to 23).” He has already suspended sports events on February 16 to 21 of the Cordillera Regional Athletic Association.

Magalong said Sunday "pedestrianization" and art activities along Session Road have been cancelled.

He said class suspensions in college in February was also lifted.

The decision comes a day after the Philippines reported its first case of the 2019-nCoV, a 38-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in the Philippines from Wuhan via Hong Kong. Wuhan is the Chinese city at the center of novel coronavirus outbreak

She and her boyfriend are in "absolute isolation" in a referral hospital for infectious diseases in Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said over CNN Philippines' Newsroom on Friday.

Magalong said he made the decision as they are "very much concerned about the health of our residents and visitors."

"We're doing this because we want to be proactive about it. We're just making sure that we're doing everything preemptive," he added.

Early this week, the Department of Health-Cordillera Administrative Region reminded locals to practice good hygiene to mitigate the spread of respiratory infections during festivities such as Panagbenga Festival.

DOH-CAR recommended the following preventive actions:

-Wash hands often

-Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

-Practice cough etiquette

-Avoid contact with sick person, especially individuals with respiratory conditions

-If not feeling well, restrict activities at home, except if getting medical care

-Wash and cook food thoroughly

-If handling animal meat, make sure to wash hands and clean utensils properly

DOH monitors man from China

The Department of Health-Cordillera Administrative Region is monitoring a man from China as fear of the 2019-nCoV grows.

The Chinese visitor whom the DOH-CAR did not name in its January 27 advisory, does not have any travel history to Wuhan – the Chinese city at the center of novel coronavirus outbreak. He also did not have known contact with a person infected with the new virus or severe acute respiratory illness and sick animals, it added.

But the DOH-CAR said the throat samples of the man and his two roommates were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa for testing.

They are “currently well and under quarantine,” the DOH-CAR added.

The DOH regional office also also called on their health workers to remain vigilant when dealing with patients who have acute respiratory infection as well as travel history to Wuhan as they are at greatest risk of contracting the virus.

The virus has left 213 people dead in mainland China and sickened over 9,000, CNN reported. The cases in China exceeded the number infected by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2002 and 2003, but SARS has a higher mortality rate so far. SARS is caused by the SARS coronavirus, which is of the same family of viruses as 2019-nCoV.