Province may save on electricity in combating pneumonia outbreak

Rona T. Fernandez, Johanna O. Bajenting

DESPITE limited information available on the risks of getting infected, Cebu leaders are taking precautions and offering cooperation to prepare Cebu in case of an outbreak of a viral pneumonia linked to China.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia discussed measures against the “mysterious” disease during her regular meeting with Capitol department heads and consultants on Monday, January 6, 2020.

“First of all, I am tasking the IPHO (Integrated Provincial Health Office) to come up with a recommended program which would ensure that we are given adequate protection. We’re more into preventive [action]. The cure to this disease remains uncertain, just like the African Swine Fever,” Garcia told reporters in a news conference after the meeting.

“But as an offshoot of that, apparently what spreads this virus is airconditioning. That is why we have tasked the architect during the department heads meeting to recommend a plan to turn off the air conditioners [in Capitol offices] and let the fresh breeze in,” she added in a mix of English and Cebuano.

The governor said the move will not only be “healthier” for Capitol clients and employees, but cost-efficient as well. She added the executive department alone spends over P1 million in electricity bills per month.

Garcia said they are also looking into installing solar panels in the Capitol executive and legislative buildings and at the Cebu South Bus Terminal as a permanent measure.

IPHO chief Christina Giango, for her part, advised the public to avoid crowded areas, wear a face mask, keep a healthy diet and have plenty of rest. She added they are coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas on quarantine centers in Cebu should there be an outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) assured it would cooperate and do its part to implement measures to prevent the entry and spread of the disease here.

There are 36 flights a week from Cebu to several cities in China. In 2018 alone, the number of Chinese tourists who visited Central Visayas stood at 621,993, an increase of 45 percent from the previous year. Chinese Consul General in Cebu Jia Li had projected that more Chinese tourists visited the province in 2019. Chinese tourists are in second spot in the region’s tourism market.

HRRAC president Carlo Suarez said the government is doing its part and there is monitoring of arrivals at the airports. “Let’s trust our government,” he said.

The Bureau of Quarantine and DOH-Central Visayas are monitoring airports for passengers coming from China.

Suarez said that with Chinese visitors being one of the important tourist markets, the HRRAC is hoping arrivals would not be disrupted because of the virus. “We are not yet affected and we hope that will not happen,” he said.

Cases of pneumonia of unknown cause were first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Clinical signs and symptoms are mainly fever, with a few patients having difficulty in breathing, and chest radiograph showing invasive lesions of both lungs, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Sunday, January 5.

Some patients were reportedly dealers or vendors in the Huanan Seafood market. “Based on the preliminary information from the Chinese investigation team, no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission and no health care worker infections have been reported,” the WHO added.

The WHO advised countries ti continue with their public health measures on respiratory infections but it did not recommend specific measures for travelers or “any travel or trade restrictions on China based on current information available.”

In Cebu, the screening of arriving passengers is being done at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport although there has been no order yet from the National Government.

Jaime Bernadas, DOH-Central Visayas director, said: “Surveillance is a standard practice, but we will shift to a more serious and more rigid screening when it comes to serious events like this. All incoming [passengers], irrespective of origin, will be screened.”

The MCIA has a thermal image scanner or a heat sensor to identify passengers with fever. Those identified may be set aside for processing or quarantine.