By Genalyn Kabiling, February 10, 2020; Manila Bulletin

A small cluster of Cabinet Secretaries will be created to oversee government efforts in looking after the health of the people as well as the local economy amid the threat posed by the new coronavirus.

As the government moves to curb the spread of the respiratory illness, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the new Cabinet group includes the Secretaries of Health, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Finance, and Communications Departments.

“We really need to manage the situation. We really need to make sure na everybody is safe and secure,” he said over government radio on Sunday.

“Gagawa na kami ng cluster para regularly pag-usapan natin ‘yung mga ibang implications ng n-CoV na ito in terms sa iba’t-ibang aspeto tulad ng health, trade, tourism, ekonomiya ng bansa. So, mino-monitor namin ito nang masinsinan and we’ll make the proper adjustments para hindi naman matamaan masyado ‘yung iba’t-ibang aspeto natin in terms of the whole area of governance (We will create a cluster to regularly meet on the implications of n-CoV in terms of health, trade, tourism, and the country’s economy. We will monitor them closely and we’ll make the proper adjustments so these aspects in terms of the whole area of government will not be severely effected),” he said.

Nograles recognized that the government must conduct regular health bulletins about the coronavirus as well as keep tabs on its potential impact on trade and tourism industries.

He said they would also study the fiscal and monetary tools needed to counter any adverse economic effects of the illness.

“Gagawa rin tayo ng mga programa (We will also create programs) to assist any industry that may become distressed due to this fallout ng novel coronavirus,” he added.

Nograles said there must be close coordination among the Office of the President and other concerned government agencies to ensure continued assessment and the proper corresponding action.

The country has so far recorded three cases of the coronavirus since the outbreak of the illness in China weeks ago. Of the three cases, one Chinese patient died while another has reportedly recovered. The third patient, a women from Wuhan, was belatedly confirmed after she had already left the country.

More than 200 cases of suspected coronavirus are being monitored by health authorities.