Number of persons under watch in PH for possible novel coronavirus infection climbs to 215

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 7) – The number of persons under watch on suspicion they might have been infected with the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV has risen to 215, the Department of Health said Friday.

Of that number, 184 are currently admitted and isolated in hospitals, nine refused admission, and 17 were discharged but remain under strict monitoring, Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a briefing.

The overall figure also includes the Philippines' first three confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV — all Chinese nationals — and the two patients who died due to other causes.

One of the confirmed cases is still admitted at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, one has been discharged and went back to China and one has died, according to the DOH.

The first 2019-nCoV related fatality, a 44-year-old Chinese man, was the partner of the 38-year-old Chinese woman still confined at the San Lazaro. Domingo said she already yielded a negative result for the new virus, indicating that her health is improving. But she has to test negative twice before being allowed to go home, he added.

The pair was from Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak.

READ: DOH: Body of novel coronavirus case 'disposed of properly'

The DOH’s 2019-nCoV tracker showed that as of Friday noon, 57 “patients under investigation” tested negative for the new coronavirus while 155 test results are still pending.

Another PUI death due to pneumonia

Domingo said that another PUI on Thursday was confirmed to have died of pneumonia and not 2019-nCoV. The person who had “underlying restrictive lung disease" tested negative for the new virus, the health official said.

The first PUI death was an "immunocompromised" 29-year-old man from Yunnan, China. He had HIV and died due to pneumonia, not 2019-nCoV, on January 29 at the San Lazaro Hospital.

Contacts of two 2019-nCoV cases traced

The Health Department’s epidemiology bureau, together with police investigators, have identified 441 people who came into contact with the Chinese couple who tested positive for the new virus, the DOH said.

The DOH team and the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were able to reach 379 passengers and crew members who were in the same Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines flights as the country’s two confirmed 2019-nCoV cases. Authorities were also able to contact 62 people who interacted with the pair in hotels and resorts, hospitals, public vehicles, and other places they visited in Cebu, Dumaguete and Manila last month.

The PNP-CIDG was tasked to help in tracking down contacts of the confirmed 2019-nCoV cases.

Of the contacts reached, 203 were placed on home quarantine, while the 32 contacts, who manifested the red flag symptoms of the 2019-nCoV, became PUIs, the Health Department reported.

It was unclear if the contacts who were part of the latest tally resisted hospitalization.

However, the PNP and the DOH were unable to reach the remaining 206 people as their contact details were “erroneous.”

But PNP-CIDG Deputy Chief PCol Roderick Armamento said they are trying other means such as emailing the contacts. So far, four out of the 55 passengers they emailed responded to them already.

The epidemiology bureau has also started tracing the contacts of the third confirmed 2019-nCoV case here. A total of 106 contacts, including her co-passengers, were assessed. Of the figure, 22 people were advised to do a self-quarantine while 14 symptomatic contacts have become PUIs.

The new coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 638 people worldwide, mostly in China, according to Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering that tracks coronavirus cases across the world. Two fatalities were reported outside the mainland of the world's most populous country – one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

The tracker also shows that the 2019-nCoV has also infected more than 31,000 people. The number includes a 30-hour old baby from Wuhan City, CNN reported Thursday.