Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

The Philippines reported 539 infections on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”


India coronavirus cases hit record high amid monsoon rains

Updated 23 min 37 sec ago

India coronavirus cases hit record high amid monsoon rains

  • India has the third-most confirmed cases in the world, exceeding 640,000 on Saturday
  • India had imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdowns in March to control the virus spread

MUMBAI: India recorded its highest singe-day spike of coronavirus cases on Saturday, with over 22,000 new cases and 442 deaths, as infections rose in the western and southern parts of the country amid heavy monsoon rains.
The western state of Maharashtra, home to the densely packed financial capital Mumbai, has the country’s highest total, recording 6,364 fresh cases of the virus on Saturday and 198 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
India has the third-most confirmed cases in the world, exceeding 640,000 on Saturday, according to health ministry data. It follows the United States, Brazil and Russia.
Officials in Mumbai warned residents to stay away from the coast, as heavy rains were predicted for the next 48 hours. The monsoons typically cause waterlogging in many parts of the city and could scuttle coronavirus containment efforts by causing a further rise in infection numbers, experts say.
In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the second worst-hit state in India, the number of cases crossed 100,000.
India had imposed one of the world’s harshest lockdowns in March to control the virus spread, but it has been eased in phases in recent weeks to restart economic activity. Epidemiologists warn India’s peak could still be weeks or months away, suggesting the country’s already severely overburdened health care system will come under further stress.