Consul sees no reason to ban Chinese

WITH China’s measures to stop the spread of the 2019-novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Chinese Consul General in Cebu Jia Li said there is no reason to ban Chinese nationals in Cebu.

Jia, in a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, asked local chief executives to reconsider their plan to ban Chinese tourists in Cebu.

He said countries like the United States of America, Japan and Germany where there have been reported positive cases of the 2019- nCoV, have not imposed ban on the Chinese.

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella had said he would ask the immigration bureau to ban the entry of Chinese in Cebu City, while Lapu- Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan urged the Department of Health to ban flights from China.

State of preparedness

Also on Wednesday, the Cebu City Council declared a state of preparedness in the city amid the threat of the 2019-nCoV.

The declaration urges the public to observe personal hygiene and avoid people with flu- like symptoms, among others.

The City Council also directed the 80 barangays to use 70 percent of their disaster fund for prevention, mitigation and preparedness by conducting information drive among their residents.

Consult DOH Speaking through an interpreter, Jia Li said he could not understand why there are calls to ban Chinese tourists as there are no confirmed 2019-nCoV cases yet in Cebu and other parts of the Philippines.

Such move, he said, requires consultation with DOH.

As of 10 a.m. of Jan. 29, nearly 9,000 cases were recorded in China—5,999 of these were confirmed cases, while around 3,000 people have symptoms but still need confirmation.

China’s death toll has reached 132, and 125 of these were from Wuhan City.

Mandate to accept

In a separate interview, DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said all level two and three hospitals are mandated to accept 2019-nCoV cases, should there be any in the region.

He said personal protective equipment are available in hospitals.

But DOH 7 still has to identify the quarantine areas should there be a confirmed case in Central Visayas, he said.

The island provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor comprise Central Visayas.

There were three suspected cases in Central Visayas, including an 18-year-old girl who was confined at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. None of them tested positive of having the 2019-nCoV.

A Chinese boy who was on vacation with his family in Sta. Fe, Bantayan Island, northern Cebu was brought to Bantayan District Hospital last Tuesday, Jan. 28, after he went down with a fever.

The next day, the boy’s fever disappeared after medication. The DOH 7 allowed the boy and his family to travel as they already had plane tickets.

Bernadas said those who suspect themselves of having acquired the virus can go to any hospital as health workers already know what protocol to follow.

He said the health workers of a hospital who will contact the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit of the DOH, which will then gate keep if a patient has to be admitted or not using their “inclusion tool,” a criteria used by doctors for admission.

China’s measures

As the number of cases keep on growing every day, Jia outlined China’s actions against the 2019-nCoV.

He said that since the start of the outbreak, the Chinese Consulate in Cebu has been updating the DOH 7, Labella and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia.

Jia denied allegations circulating on social media that the government has downplayed the number of cases in China, saying the source of their data is the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations.

The Chinese New Year celebration last Jan. 25 was devoid of festive mood as parties, public gatherings and watching of cinemas were temporarily restricted in China, said Jia.

Aside from enforcing quarantine to prevent the spread of the 2019-nCoV, he said the Chinese National Government implemented a total lockdown in Hubei Province, where Wuhan is situated.

Other areas in China were also placed under partial lockdown.

The airlines in China, said Jia, implemented strict measures.

Outbound tourists have to fill up forms and answer questionnaires that include their travel details.

All those with temperatures of 37.5 degrees Celsius and above are automatically declined for boarding and they are quarantined.

Normal body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius.

Flight suspension

He said flights from China to the Philippines may be suspended due to lack of passengers.

He noted that the number of Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines has decreased following the cancellation of group tours abroad by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism last Jan. 25.

There are around 36 direct flights between China and Cebu per week. Supposedly, there will be three more flights by February, however, these could be postponed because of the situation.

As of 2018, about 1.3 million Chinese arrived in the Philippines. Of this number, 633,000 arrived in Cebu.

In 2019, around 700,000 Chinese tourists arrived in Cebu.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Lapu-Lapu City has continued to welcome flights from China.

Not a single airline in the country cancelled their flights to and from China.

However, international airlines such as the British Airways and United Airlines have temporarily cancelled their flights to China and back. Malaysian airline AirAsia has extended the suspension of all AirAsia flights from Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok and Phuket to Wuhan, China until Feb. 29, 2020.

Lapu-Lapu City tourism officer Ed Mendez said the hotels and resorts in the city are still in “business as usual” mode, saying Chinese tourists have not cancelled their bookings. The city has around 190 hotels and resorts.

However, Jia said during the press conference that several tourists cancelled their hotel accommodations after the group tours were cancelled.

He thanked the medical staff of the DOH 7, who he said were “very professional and very responsible” in taking care of the five- year-old Chinese national who was suspected and was later found to be negative of the 2019-nCov.

Asked about the child and his mother’s whereabouts, he said he does not know, but said that as long as their visa is valid they can go home. (WBS, JJL, BBT, FVQ, JOB)