Literatus: Known whereabouts of the ‘two cases’

Zosimo T. Literatus

THE last desperate getaway—it turned out— for the two Chinese tourists from Wuhan City, China.

The Philippines’ first two cases of people with the Wuhan-originating novel betacoronavirus (Wuhan betacoronavirus)—often referred to with its technical shorthand “2019-nCoV ARD”—arrived in Dumaguete City on Jan. 21. The male and female Chinese duo had taken a connecting flight via Cebu City from Wuhan, the epicenter of this globally expanding epidemic.

They reached the Philippines from Hong Kong onboard flight 5J241 (Hong Kong-Cebu direct) and arrived in Dumaguete onboard flight DG6519, as reported by news outlets. In Dumaguete, they stayed in a travelers’ hostel adjacent to a mall in Barangay Calindagan. It is not known from reports if they stayed there before or after staying in a resort in Dauin, a municipality south of Dumaguete.

Since the duo sought hospitalization on Jan. 25, it means that they were still asymptomatic when they were in Cebu and Dumaguete. This also means that they were in their most infectious. The Department of Health (DOH) did not disclose the number of days they stayed in Negros Oriental though.

That is key information to estimate if they may have already been symptomatic during their stay. It is probable that the female companion was still asymptomatic because her reason for admission was only a mild cough. Her companion, however, was hospitalized for pneumonia, which is already an advanced condition for the Wuhan betacoronavirus infection.

The good news about this is that the incubation period, which is the period of asymptomatic state, is only up to 12 days. That means that people in Dumaguete may have to wait only until Feb. 1 to be confident that thereafter, if no people symptomatic for the Wuhan betacoronavirus emerge then the danger may have already passed.

If hospitalizations start then that is a different matter. This is where the crucial hope for Dumagueteños must be. Meanwhile, it took nine days later (on Jan. 30) for the local DOH authorities to quarantine the resort and the travelers’ inn. A DOH team from Manila, expectedly from the Bureau of Quarantine, was supposed to arrive on Feb. 1. Tracing the passengers they had in contact with at the Dumaguete airport (and Mactan-Cebu International Airport), the other passengers of the van they hired to Dauin, and those others they encountered in the nearby mall (if they went there) will be more difficult to accomplish.

Let us just pray that, in God’s great providence, all those unknowable people may be free from the Wuhan betacoronavirus infection.