PH transport official tests positive for COVID-19, sources say

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12) — A Philippine transportation official has tested positive for the coronavirus disease or COVID-19, sources told CNN Philippines Thursday.

This is the first time that a government official is reported to have contracted the virus. It is not clear if the official is among the 49 cases earlier confirmed by the Department of Health.

The Department of Transportation said it has shut down some of its offices for cleaning and disinfection. All employees with flu-like symptoms are being sent home.

"We assure the public that the DOTr is taking all possible measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as we continue to serve our stakeholders and commuters," the agency said in a statement.

It added that some of its officials, including Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade have placed themselves under self-quarantine "in observance of protocols set by the Department of Health in the event of a possible exposure to COVID-19."

Several lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, top government and local officials are undergoing self-quarantine after exposure to coronavirus patients. President Rodrigo Duterte will also get tested for coronavirus as a preemptive measure since has has regularly engaged with Cabinet officials who may have had contact with people who turned out positive for COVID-19, Malacañang said. It added that the President is not exhibiting any red-flag symptoms of the disease.

The second coronavirus death has been recorded in the country on Wednesday – a 67-year-old woman who is also the first Filipino national to die of the viral disease.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed more than 4,600 people, mostly in China, since the outbreak began in Wuhan City in December last year. Over 126,000 people have been infected according to the Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 global tracker.

The World Health Organization now considers COVID-19 a pandemic.

According to the WHO the most commonly reported symptoms are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. WHO said 8 in 10, or around 80 percent, of infected patients experience "mild illness" and eventually recover from COVID-19. Some 14 percent experience severe illness while 5 percent were critically ill, the WHO said.

To prevent infection, authorities are urging people to practice regular hand washing, cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and avoid close contact with those who show respiratory symptoms.