DOH-7 begins search for woman’s contacts

THE Department of Health (DOH) Central Visayas says the 38-year-old Chinese woman who was the first confirmed case of the 2019-novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) in the country and her boyfriend never left the airport when they were in Cebu.

Jaime Bernadas, DOH 7 director, in a press conference Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, said the couple stayed only at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) for three hours (moving from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1) then went directly to Dumaguete City last Jan. 21 via a Cebu Pacific flight. (Editor’s note: The couple traveled from Hong Kong to Cebu via a Cebu Pacific flight and left for Dumaguete hours later on board Cebgo, a Cebu Pacific subsidiary.)

The woman and her boyfriend are now in San Larazo Hospital in Manila, both asymptomatic.

Bernadas said the Provincial Health Office of Dumaguete together with the DOH surveillance team has started enumerating and locating the possible contacts of the couple.

A team from DOH 7 also went to Dumaguete City Friday morning, while a team from DOH Manila is also expected to arrive in Dumaguete Friday afternoon to assist in the contact tracing.

“Please bear with us. The hotel and resorts owners have requested to withhold the names of the resorts and hotels,” he said.

He said if the persons who are traced are found to be asymptomatic, they will be advised to stay at home or in their hotels for 14 days for monitoring by field health personnel.

If they have displayed some symptoms, they will be referred to a health care facility for some diagnostic tests, Bernadas said.

Terrence Anthony Bermejo, chief of the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) Cebu, said they are also conducting contact tracing of the airplane passengers seated beside, in front, and at the back of the couple.

In a statement on Friday, commercial airline Cebu Pacific (Cebpac) said they are working closely with the DOH and the BoQ on the necessary actions.

“We are in the process of contacting passengers seated in the vicinity of the positive nCoV patient and are taking the necessary precautions to inform them so they can have themselves checked in case they show flu-like symptoms,” reads a portion of the Cebpac statement.

It added that the cabin crew and pilots on affected flights have also been informed and show no symptoms of illness. The aircraft used for both flights have been pulled out of the line and are undergoing thorough disinfection.

As of 12 noon yesterday, the DOH recorded three persons under investigation (PUI) in Central Visayas. Two are currently admitted in a hospital while one PUI has been released.

Bernadas asked the Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) not to transfer persons with respiratory symptoms from one room to another while waiting for responding health personnel.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año ordered all local government units (LGUs) to be in a “state of preparedness” to meet the global health emergency posed by the 2019-nCoV ARD.

All LGUs were advised to create their respective task forces to implement DOH protocols and guidelines and extend full cooperation.

He said the provincial governor or the city or town mayor should lead the task force.

The task force should ensure that local health workers have the necessary equipment such as masks, goggles and gloves as well as knowledge on how to prevent the disease.

For its part, the Philippine National Police (PNP) ordered all its units to be on “high readiness mode” and work in close coordination with the DOH to determine the assistance they can provide to curb the spread of the disease.

PNP Chief Archie Gamboa said the PNP may also mobilize its Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives unit to assist the DOH.

Gamboa said he is encouraging all policemen to wear face masks.

Gamboa said he will also issue a directive for crowd control and traffic management assistance amid the panic buying of face masks. (WBS with SunStar Philippines)