Philippine police raid illicit hospital for virus patients

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) – Philippine police raided a clandestine hospital and drugstore that was secretly treating Chinese nationals suspected of being infected with the coronavirus, police officials said yesterday.

Two people were arrested and one patient was found during Tuesday’s raid at the residential villa that had been illegally turned into a seven-bed hospital and drug store, Police Brig General Rhoderick Armamento said.

More than 200 suspected coronavirus rapid test kits and syringes were recovered in trash cans at the villa, which has a small canteen at the lobby entrance where a red sign welcomed visitors with well wishes in Chinese.

The hospital and drugstore are in a large room by the swimming pool at the back of the compound, according to Armamento and a police video.

The Chinese male patient was moved to a Philippine hospital. Those arrested were the Chinese administrator of the hospital, which may have been operating secretly for about three months, and a compatriot who manned the drugstore, he said.

Police teams inspect a drug store beside a seven-bed hospital during a raid on a residential villa which was illegally turned into a medical facility at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone northwest of Manila. PHOTO: AP

“They have practiced medicine and prescribed drug without licence,” Armamento told The Associated Press (AP) by telephone yesterday.

“The Chinese patients who were brought there may still be walking around in public and can infect other people.”

Police put the residential compound under surveillance after receiving a complaint that a person infected with the coronavirus was being treated there. They coordinated with Department of Health, and Food and Drug Administration officials prior to the raid, a police report said.

Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar who heads a national police force enforcing quarantine restrictions, told AP that the illegal hospital and drugstore could endanger patients instead of saving them because they do not conform with government health regulations and standards.

The villa is in the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, a former United States (US) Air Force base turned into a commercial and leisure centre with upscale residential enclaves, northwest of Manila. Most of the illicit medical facility’s clients may have come from the large numbers of Chinese nationals working in online gambling outfits in Clark, Armamento said.

The Philippines, backed by the Chinese government, has launched a crackdown on large numbers of Chinese who mostly entered the country as tourists and then worked for the online gambling operations, which are illegal in China. The outfits cater mostly to Chinese clients in mainland China.

Illegal Chinese workers would avoid regular Philippine hospitals to avoid getting identified and arrested, Armamento said.

The Philippines has reported nearly 13,000 coronavirus infections, including 837 deaths, among the highest in Southeast Asia.