There are some 150 Filipinos in the Chinese city at the center of the 2019 novel coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak and the Department of Foreign Affairs should be ready to evacuate them, a lawmaker said on Monday.

In a statement, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian noted that the United States had evacuated American citizens from Wuhan, the source of the coronavirus that has killed 56 people.

The DFA said its embassies and consulates in China and affected areas continue to “reach out to overseas Filipinos to take necessary precautions and follow the advice from local health authorities in their area.”

“It is also in close coordination with the Filipino communities in calling for volunteer nurses and doctors who may serve as first responders for the overseas Filipinos in affected areas,” it said in a statement.

On Jan. 26, the World Health Organization (WHO) said a total of 2,014 cases of 2019-nCoV had been reported globally, 1,985 of which were from China. Ten other countries have reported a combined 29 cases: Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, the United States and France.

The virus, which can be transmitted through human contact, was first reported in Wuhan on Dec. 31, 2019. The 2019-nCoV belongs to the same family of viruses as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related Coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty in breathing.

In the Philippines, 11 persons are being monitored for suspected 2019-nCoV: two in hospitals in Metro Manila, one in Mimaropa, one in Northern Mindanao, three in Western Visayas, one in Eastern Visayas and three in Central Visayas.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, called for a preparedness plan.

“In the Red Cross, we always assume the worst that could happen and prepare for the best, work for the best. Teamwork is undertaken here. In our country, lagi na lang malayo pa `yan, malayo pa `yan. Pag dumating na, natataranta lahat (we always say it’s far from us, but when it comes, we panic),” he said. (PressONE.ph)