7 South Korean tourists unaccounted for

SEVEN South Korean nationals are unaccounted for in Cebu after surveillance officials failed to find them in hotels named in their entry cards.

They either moved to another hotel or left Cebu, or they falsified information in their health declaration cards, local officials said Friday, Feb. 28, 2020.

The seven were among 26 South Korean nationals who arrived on Tuesday, Feb. 25, from Daegu, North Gyeongsang province, South Korea, where there has been a rise in cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).The Philippines ordered a ban on travel from North Gyeongsang on Wednesday. The 26 apparently cleared health screening at the airport.

Department of Health (DOH) 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said Friday surveillance officials failed to trace the seven foreigners because they were not in the hotel they mentioned in their health declaration card.

“We located them (the group) based on records of the immigration and quarantine (offices),” Bernadas said. But when they were identifying them one by one, “we were informed that some of them were nowhere to be found in the addressess that were provided in the declaration. So that’s the problem now that we are facing,” Bernadas said.

Upon learning this, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who was meeting with Bernadas, ordered the police Friday to monitor the hotels. “It’s because of this that I gave the order to immediately see to it that the remaining 19 who are on self-quarantine will be placed on mandatory quarantine with the PNP expected to monitor and keep a round-the-clock surveillance of the hotels where they are located. They (South Korean nationals) can stay in the hotel room or go back to Korea,” Garcia said.

The 19 South Korean nationals on self-quarantine in hotels in Cebu and Lapu-Lapu cities are aged six to 56. They are to undergo 14 days of self-quarantine in their hotel rooms.

Garcia said this incident shows the need to revise health declaration cards that arriving passengers have to fill before clearing the airport. Any false declaration in the card will be subject to a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment for one year as stated in the Province’s Ordinance 2020-02, the governor said.

Bernadas remained confident the remaining seven foreign visitors would be traced. They could have left Cebu or the country already or moved to another hotel, he added.

The DOH 7 head also asked the help of the South Korean consulate here to locate them.

In Mandaue City where five South Korean nationals are being monitored, City Health Office chief Rose Marie Ouano-Tirado said the five are on 14-day quarantine. Mayor Jonas Cortes, for his part, said he supports the travel ban to and from North Gyeongsang, South Korea, as a preventive measure against the Covid-19.

The World Health Organization said the novel coronavirus infection has spread to 37 countries outside China, where the virus originated.

But, the DOH in Manila said, the Philippines is among the nine countries in the world with no new cases of Covid-19 for more than two weeks.

As of Feb. 28, the Philippines only has three confirmed cases of Covid-19. One of the three confirmed cases, a 44-year-old Chinese man, died due to severe pneumonia.

The DOH also reported that as of 12 p.m. Friday, at least 30 patients have been placed under investigation for the disease, while 585 patients have already been discharged. A total of 531 patients have tested negative for the new virus. (ANV, KFD / SunStar Philippines)