Police tracking over 200 passengers on same flights as nCoV couple

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) will be tracking in the next 48 hours over 200 persons who may have had contact with the Chinese tourists who tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director Major General Joel Coronel said on Wednesday, February 5.

Coronel said there were a total of 331 passengers on three flights that the couple took from Hong Kong to Cebu, Cebu to Dumaguete, and Dumaguete to Manila.

Of the 331, 50 have been accounted for, leaving 281 persons who have not been located.

“Our function and task for the next 48 hours is to locate the whereabouts, status and the condition of these passengers,” said Coronel.

“We will be setting up a multi-agency task force not just only by CIDG, we are working closely with the PNP Health Service, PNP Aviation Security Group, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group and also we’ll be getting assistance from the DOH particularly in physically locating and confronting the passengers and asking them to undergo a medical information,” he said.

He said they were tapping the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas for the contact tracing.

Coronel, together with the representatives from the PNP Health Service, met with Doctor Chito Avelino, officer-in-charge of the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH), to discuss the contact tracing of the passengers who were on the same flights as the Chinese couple.

The Chinese couple arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport in Cebu on January 21, 2020 from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

They had taken Cebu Pacific flight 5J-241 in Hong Kong for Cebu and transferred to Cebu Pacific flight DG-6519 for Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, also on January 21.

They left Negros for Manila on January 25, 2020 via Philippine Airlines flight PR-2542.

Avelino said they will first contact the identified passengers through the provided contact numbers and email address and ask them about their health situation since their arrival.

“Ang ginagawa ngayon ay una tatawagan muna at aalamin kung ano ang health condition nya sa nakaraang 14 araw since ‘yung byahe nya na nakasama nya ‘yung pasyente natin na na-identify,” he said.

“Kapag sya ay may symptoms or may ubo, sipon o nagkalagnat na during that period of time, i-advise natin sya na mag-stay lang sa room at ang ating DOH na regional epidemiology and surveillance unit sya ang gagawa ng paraan para ma-transport ‘yung pasahero sa ospital at para makuhanan sila ng specimen for laboratory work,” he added.

Immediate family members of these passengers as well as others who may have had close contact with them may also be subjected to tests.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced that the man died of pneumonia, the disease caused by the 2019-nCoV, on February 1, 2020. He was the first fatality outside of China. The woman is asymptomatic and in stable condition at the San Lazaro Hospital. (SunStar Philippines)