PH ports ramp up screening process for travelers vs coronavirus threat

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – Airports, seaports and other transportation hub in the country will be ramping up screening processes for arrivals amid the threat of a new coronavirus strain spreading internationally, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Thursday.

In a statement, the DOTr said transit hubs in the country have been ordered to intensify measures to stop the illness from potentially entering the Philippines ahead of the expected influx of passengers for the celebration of Chinese New year on January 25.

“Please adopt all measures necessary and expedient to address the issue on coronavirus, considering world developments and the influx of passengers expected this Lunar New Year,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

In response to Tugade’s directive, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco said they have reactivated their communicable disease preparedness procedures and airport frontline personnel were advised to wear face masks, maintain proper hygiene and practice regular handwashing.

“Posting of public advisories informing about coronavirus infections and the strict monitoring of suspected passengers are also being enforced,” Sydiongco said.

He added that airport personnel were also directed to exercise extreme vigilance in handling passenger arrivals to strictly monitor those who are possibly infected by the virus.

Sydiongco also assured they are tightly monitoring arriving passengers, especially at the Kalibo International Airport, which has direct flights from Wuhan City in China – the area where the new strain of coronavirus was first detected on December 31, 2019.

The Philippine Ports Authority also ordered all ports in the country to intensify passenger screening at arrival areas, especially in places frequently visited by tourists such as Bohol and Caticlan in Aklan.

The Philippine Coast Guard, for its part, advised all its medical units to be on high alert to prevent the possible spread of new coronavirus strain in the country.

The DOTr also assured that stricter passenger screening processes are also in place land terminals and railway networks.

“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 said.

The death toll from the novel coronavirus called 2019-nCov has risen to 17, with over 400 individuals infected across China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, United States, Taiwan and Macau.

There is no confirmed case yet of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, but they are monitoring several individuals who were reported to have manifested symptoms of respiratory illness.

Common symptoms of 2019-nCoV include cough, throat irritation and fever. The World Health Organization (WHO) said novel coronavirus causes respiratory infections which may develop into severe cases such as pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death if left untreated.

Coronavirus, which is a large group of viruses common among animals, causes illness ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The virus can be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected person or animal.

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