Briones: ‘Good’ news

Publio J. Briones III

NINE deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the US, as of Tuesday, March 3, 2020, all of them in the Pacific northwest state of Washington.

More than 100 cases have already been reported across 15 states, but the Trump administration and the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to downplay the threat.

Outbreaks in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan don’t appear to be slowing down, with the WHO announcing that more than 90,000 persons worldwide have been diagnosed with the disease.

However, there’s a piece of good news.

The daily rate of infections in China, the coronavirus’ country of origin, continued to fall, as of Tuesday, according to the WHO, which only showed that containing the disease, even in hardest-hit communities, was possible.

Of course, the Chinese government had imposed draconian control measures, which, I’m sure, would raise eyebrows in freedom-loving societies. But, as they say, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

There’s even an unverified claim on social media that North Korea had executed a coronavirus patient. Talk about being desperate.

Here in the Philippines, Malacañang relaxed travel restrictions to South Korea, but the ban on foreign nationals traveling from North Gyeongsang Province, including Daegu City and Cheongdo County, remains in effect.

There’s a catch, though.

“All Filipinos who intend to visit other parts of South Korea shall execute and sign a declaration, signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved in their trip. A health advisory pamphlet shall likewise be handed out to them upon their departure,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Malacañang has had a habit on flip-flopping on the issue.

It did the same thing when it banned travel to and from Taiwan last month only to lift the restriction a few days later when an official of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei warned that “Taiwan could cancel visa-free privileges for Filipinos in retaliation to the ban.”

Of course, Panelo had denied that Malacañang’s change of heart had anything to do with the threat.

Health authorities in Cebu had a tizzy fit when the government banned travel to the East Asian nation and prohibited the entry of travelers from North Gyeongsang Province on Feb. 26, considering that a flight from Daegu City carrying 26 South Korean nationals arrived the day before.

So what was that all about?

I understand that the country can’t let its guard down even though a single Filipino in the archipelago has yet to be diagnosed with the disease, knock on wood, but it should stick to its guns. To avoid confusion and unnecessary worry, that is.