Quarantined Cebuanos monitored

MORE than a hundred Filipino passengers who arrived at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on board several flights from China since Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020 will soon be monitored by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to check if they are really on self-quarantine as ordered by health authorities.

Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) Cebu Chief Terence Anthony Bermejo said a list of the passengers’ names was already submitted to the PNP so that police could help keep track of their whereabouts.

A total of 95 Filipino passengers from Hong Kong and Macau arrived at the MCIA on board five separate flights last Sunday and Monday, Feb. 3.

Another 27 arrived at MCIA on Tuesday, Feb. 4 aboard two flights from Hong Kong.

Of the 20 Filipinos who arrived at MCIA from Hong Kong on Tuesday at around 12 noon, only one who is a non-resident of Cebu was taken to a government-designated quarantine center for the 14-day confinement. The rest were advised to go home to undergo self-quarantine.

At 7 p.m., another batch of seven Filipinos arrived from Hong Kong.

Bermejo had yet to ascertain, as of presstime, if all the seven passengers were advised to go home or if some were taken to a government quarantine center.

“The role of the PNP is to strictly implement the home quarantine. Some may disobey it when they are being instructed to just stay at home,” Bermejo told SunStar Cebu.

Police Regional Office-Central Visayas director Brigadier Gen. Valeriano de Leon, in a talk with reporters, said he had yet to receive the home-quarantine list from the BOQ but assured he was ready to order the deployment of personnel to assist local health workers.

Those found disobeying the prescribed 14-day home quarantine may be recommended by the Department of Health (DOH) for quarantine in a government facility.

Bermejo said as part of protocol, the list of the Filipino passengers from China was also submitted to the DOH’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (Resu) and its Emerging and Re-emerging Disease Infectious Program.

It will be the DOH’s role to inform the concerned local government units (LGUs) if any of their constituents are on the list.

DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas said municipal health units had been oriented on how to handle those under home quarantine.

Barangay health workers, policemen and Resu personnel were advised to take precautionary measures, such as the wearing of protective masks, as they conduct home visitations on the quarantined.

Family members, on the other hand, were told to keep children away from their relative who had just arrived from China.

“Before they are released, they were given instructions to strictly follow. We got all their contact numbers and email addresses. If they later develop symptoms, they have to be transported to a hospital,” Bermejo said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

“Our parameters in the airport is only thermal screening. If you don’t have fever, you can’t really be detected. That’s the only parameter we have—the presence of fever and their appearance,” Bermejo said.

Those advised to go on self-quarantine were allowed to use their own vehicles or ride public utility vehicles on their way home from the airport, while those who were brought to the government facility rode a vehicle provided by the MCIA.

Questions raised

“Ang nakakalungkot, pinakawalan ang taga-Cebu na 6 dahil ang reason nila taga-Cebu lang daw at madaling makontak. Sure ba sila na makontak nila? (What’s sad is they released six from Cebu for the reason that they are from Cebu and can be easily contacted. How sure are they that they can be contacted?),” an angry Facebook post from an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) identified as Jessy Jardin said, Tuesday.

“At may isang ibang lahi pa? So naghold sila sa amin na walang klaro na systema (And there is one foreigner? So they held us without a clear system),” she added.

SunStar Cebu texted the DOH and BOQ to ask about Jardin’s allegation of a foreigner released on home quarantine, but the queries remained unanwered.

Jardin and her daughter, Jessa Mae, were among four of 10 Filipinos who arrived Monday from Hong Kong and were taken to a government hospital for a mandatory 14-day quarantine since they had no place to go home to in Cebu.

Jardin, an OFW based in Dubai, took to social media to complain about their ordeal. Jardin said she and her daughter flew back to the Philippines after she received news that her brother had passed away.

She said after they were given 10 days by their employers to mourn her brother’s passing, they then took a Cathay Pacific flight from Dubai to Cebu, which included a two-hour layover in Hong Kong.

During the two-hour layover in Hong Kong, Jardin said she and her daughter never left the plane even to buy water or food for fear that they might be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).

She added that she and her daughter also wore surgical masks to avoid contamination.

When they got to Cebu on Monday, Jardin said they were surprised that immigration personnel stopped them at the MCIA.

Jardin complained that only she, her daughter and two other non-Cebuanos were taken to the hospital for quarantine while their fellow passengers were allowed to go home.

Jardin’s daughter told SunStar Cebu they were not suffering from any symptoms of 2019-nCoV ARD such as fever and coughing.

“So bakit pa kami i-quarantine ng 14 days? Hindi naman po tama yon! Hindi po kami umuwi ng Pinas para magpa-quarantine. Ang patay po ng labi ng tito ko ang hinahabol namin. Maawa naman kayo. (Why are they putting us on a 14-day quarantine? That is not right! We did not come home to the Philippines to be quarantined. We’re trying to catch my uncle’s wake. Please have mercy),” pleaded Jessa Mae.

The Jardins are trying to go home to Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte.

But the DOH 7 is standing firm on government procedure to hold all arriving Filipino passengers from China on strict quarantine.

“That’s facility quarantine. It’s just an SOP as part of the advisory. The airlines have been advised to inform their passengers about the quarantine. They should not have boarded that plane or could have taken another flight without passing through China,” Bernadas said in a text message to SunStar Cebu.

Contingency plans

On Monday, Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia issued an executive order (EO) creating the Cebu Provincial 2019-nCoV Task Force composed of four teams: surveillance and monitoring, quarantine, treatment, and education campaign.

The EO which shall take effect on Wednesday, Feb. 5 establishes protocols for individuals suspected of having been exposed to the disease. It also provides guidelines on the entry of all tourists from China, regardless of nationality, in compliance with President Duterte’s directive for a temporary travel ban.

Under the EO, a quarantined person who becomes symptomatic of the 2019-nCoV ARD shall be immediately referred to hospitals to be managed and treated.

Those on home-quarantine, on the other hand, should ensure that they stay in a separate bedroom without sharing immediate space with other household members.

Family members are also advised to follow reverse isolation which consists of setting aside separate utensils and practicing proper hygiene.

Quarantined family members are discouraged from going outside and are required to wear a face mask.

The EO also encourages airline companies to continue servicing flights to and from China on a limited basis so that returning Filipino citizens from Cebu may come home while foreign nationals may return to China. ( WBS, JKV, RTF, AYB )