Government authorities have implemented pro-active measures to prevent the entry and possible spread of a new corona virus originating from Wuhan, China with the country’s air and sea ports adopting stringent monitoring of all arriving passengers.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Thursday directed all heads of the agency’s four sectors “to adopt all measures necessary and expedient to address the issue on coronavirus.”
Tugade said an influx of passengers is expected in the country starting this week with the Lunar New Year celebration.
“As we implement preventive measures and stringent monitoring of passengers in our transportation hubs nationwide, we implore the public to cooperate with the authority and also be vigilant in their travels at all times,” Tugade explained.
Malacañang said that as far as Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III is concerned, there’s no reason for people to panic concerning the entry to the Philippines of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
In a press briefing, Chief presidential Legal Counsel and spokesman Salvador Panelo, said that he has already talked with Secretary Duque about the matter and he assured him that they are on top of the situation.
He added that Secretary Duque has advised the public that the number 1 solution to the problem is trough preventive measures.
“I talked with Secretary Duque, and he said that (the) are on top of the situation. It has not reached an alarming level that we have to do some drastic measures, like prohibiting people from entering, especially those suspected of having that kind of virus,” Panelo said.
For his part, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco said that they are continuously coordinating with the DoH and the Bureau of Quarantine to support its efforts to secure airports from the coronavirus.
He said CAAP is also closely monitoring arriving passengers, especially at the Kalibo International Airport, which has direct flights from Wuhan, China.
Sydiongco said that Royal Air, one of the airlines that operate direct flights between Kalibo and Wuhan, expressed its intention to suspend its Wuhan flights until the coronavirus issue has been contained and managed.
He said CAAP has reactivated its communicable disease preparedness procedures on all CAAP-operated airports, especially in international gateways such as Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Zamboanga, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag and Iloilo.
Meanwhile, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal said that operations at the country’s main gateway of Ninoy Aquino International Airport are guided by strict safety protocols in full coordination with the Bureau of Quarantine.
The country’s main gateway accepts an average of 18 flights from China.
Officials of the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific also vowed that they have also taken measures in line with the government efforts.
Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Jay Santiago stressed that all PPA-operated ports have also been directed to coordinate with the quarantine office and implement strict passenger screening at arrival areas.
Santiago said stringent security measures are in-place in areas frequently visited by tourists such as Bohol and Caticlan in Aklan.
Likewise, the Philippine Coast Guard advised all medical units in its 13 Coast Guard Districts to be on high alert to prevent the possible spread of the virus.
The Bureau of Quarantine has implemented strict passenger screening and safety measures in all of the country’ sentry points.
No confirmed case
Relatedly, the five-year-old boy who showed signs of the virus upon his arrival in Cebu last 12 January was tested negative for coronavirus, the DoH-Central Visayas announced yesterday.
The DoH-Central Visayas office said that the Chinese boy is expected to be released soon.
Bureau of Quarantine chief Dr. Geraldine Yangson said that two other passengers from Guangzhou, China were invited after registering high temperature while passing through a thermal scanner but were subsequently cleared and released.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who has jurisdiction over the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said they are ready to assist the DoH in case there is a need to track down the whereabouts of suspected carriers.
“Should the DoH need our help, I will direct the BI and NBI to track down the whereabouts of these Chinese nationals and find the people they have interacted,” Guevarra said.
China has already locked down Wuhan — a city of 11 million people considered the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600, as health authorities around the world scramble to prevent a global pandemic.
Health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for Lunar New Year, which begins on Saturday.
The previously unknown virus strain is believed to have emerged late last year from illegally traded wildlife at an animal market in China’s central city of Wuhan.
Cases have been detected as far away as the United States, stoking fears the virus is already spreading worldwide.
Wuhan’s local government said it would shut down all urban transport networks and suspend outgoing flights starting 10 a.m. on Thursday, state media said.
With Anthony Ching, Francis Wakefield
and Alvin Murcia @tribunephl_alvi