The entry of tourists, especially from China arriving through the Tagbilaran City Port pose a threat in the heightened alert on the spread of Coronavirus here.
This is due to the absence of thermal scanners which will detect the body temperature of the passengers.
Everyday, some 9,000 passengers from Cebu, mostly tourists will disembark from Ocean Jet or SuperCat, a much bigger volume of passengers as compared to the daily arrivals at the Bohol Pangllao International Airport (BPIA).
Most of these tourists will mingle with the local residents as they will go on a countryside tour, usually partaking their meals at the Loboc floating restaurants. Some of these arrivals will check-in at the various resorts here.
Port Manager James Gantalao of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) admitted to the Chronicle that there are thermal scanners at the seaport arrival area unlike at the airport in Panglao. He said considering the “higher risk” of Bohol being a tourist destination, these scanners are needed as this is the only way to detect persons contaminated with the virus
The arrivals of Chinese nationals will expose tour guides, van drivers, food servers and souvenir shop personnel to direct contracts with these arriving tourists while they will be in the province.
For the day-trippers, it will just be an eight-hour interaction with the locals.
However, for those who will be billeted in Panglao resorts, they will have longer interaction inside the resorts.
Josephine Remolador of the Bohol Tourism Office (BTO) confirmed yesterday that tourists from China comprise the biggest chunk of arrivals since 2018, followed by Koreans.
The risk of having persons contaminated with the virus remains high since they can not be noticed nor block their entry to Bohol without basis of medical data like the one coming from the thermal scanner.
Some 172 Chinese nationals arrived 7:20am last Friday at the Bohol Panglao International AIrport on board a direct flight of Pan Pacific AIrlines from Chengdu City, capital of southewestern’s Sichuan province, China.
No passenger was asked to proceed to the quarantine section as all passengers did not show any signs of the virus contamination after passing through the thermal scanner.
A body temperature of more than 36.5 degrees Celsius will cause the scanner to alarm and the passenger will be stopped for further quarantine inspection
There is one functioning thermal scanner to monitor and detect passengers with heightened body temperature which may indicate illness. The device however only covers arriving international passengers.
There is twice weekly chartered flight from Chungud City, China on board Pan Pacific Airlines.
Health officials assured the public that there will be no complacency in observing precautionary measures.
Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez, assistant provincial health officer, explained that even the nationwide record, especially Bohol, has no confirmed case of coronavirus of Wuhan-origin.
In fact, the five-year-old child from Wuhan, China who was earlier admitted in a Cebu City hospital for showing symptoms of coronavirus infection had already been found negative of the virus.
Also, the two Chinese tourists who sought medical attention at Gov. Celestino Gallares Hospital and Ramiro Community Hospital have already been found out of danger.
Lopez clarified that the 36-year-old patient at Ramiro Community Hospital who had been monitored for possible infection with the new strain of coronavirus was from Guangdong, China and not from Wuhan, China.
He said they visit the patient as constant as twice a day and constant communication is maintained; and it was learned that the patient has now recovered from fever and colds on his third day at the hospital.
In his assessment, Lopez said the patient’s condition was not serious and that it is now certain that he was not infected with the new strain of coronavirus that is deadly.
Nevertheless, the health authorities await the results of the laboratory tests on the specimen taken from him.
The other patient from China, two-year-old child, had already returned to China with his mother.
Lopez also explained that the coronavirus has six strains and the new strain from Wuhan, China is the seventh, if confirmed.
As of now, the scientists of the World Health Organization is in the process of confirming the new strains, he added.
Four of the six known strains are the benign ones such as the common viruses, according to Lopez as he further explained that the ordinary cough, colds and fever which are symptoms of viral flu is actually a coronavirus infection caused by the ordinary coronavirus.
In viral flu, the patient can recover by just taking a leave from work to be able to rest at home and take medicine for two to three days, Lopez added.
He further explained that these ordinary types of coronavirus are the ones experienced in ordinary cases of coughs and colds eversince.
The two other strains of known coronavirus are those that cause the SARS and MerS.
To differentiate, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) have been known to be deadly as there had been actual cases of mortality in the Philippines due to these two.
The popular case was the MERS infection that killed a Filipino nurse who returned home from Middle East and her father.
As MERS is “a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus”, it is also called the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012”.
SARS is also considered the “serious form of pneumonia” characterized by severe breathing difficulty.
Lopez said the WHO is now watching on the seventh strain of coronavirus has just been established in December 2019 in Wuhan, China where it was traced by scientists in China that it came from snakes and bats at a market in Wuhan province.
It had been established that the virus is zoonotic- -transmitted from animals to humans.
However, scientists are still researching how the seventh strain of coronavirus in Wuhan is transmitted to humans, Lopez shared.
He also shared that as reported in international news networks, the new coronavirus already caused 17 deaths and sent 500 patients to hospitals in Wuhan, China.
Lopez allayed fears of the public as Wuhan already declared lockdown, while officials there are doing their best to control its spread.
Lopez also explained that other than producing the ordinary cough and colds, coronavirus leads to pneumonia which is the leading cause of death.
He said that a virus is passed on from human to human through droplets when one sneezes and coughs and these droplets happen to carry the virus and the person next to him catches the virus through the droplets.
Lopez said the virus specifically affects the respiratory tract- -from the nose to the lungs.
He warned that susceptible to the illness are the “very old” and “the very young” age bracket, and those who have low resistance such as thoe who have pre-existing illness are also susceptible
Immune system is the top factor in viral illnesses, Lopez added.
He also explained that virus is self-limiting which means that it can either lead to “clearance of pathogens or death of the host”.
In fact, there were cases in Wuhan where those who got the coronavirus had eventually recovered their immune system.
The provincial government created a technical working group (TWG) for Bohol to remain in control of the situation.
This, after the province itself has not been spared from the coronavirus scare after two suspected cases were reported on Wednesday.
Acting Gov. Rene Relampagos said that two Chinese nationals, aged two and 36, who showed symptoms of the disease were taken to separate hospitals in Tagbilaran City.
He, however, called on the public to remain calm as both cases remained unconfirmed.
Health authorities took from the two patients swab samples which were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and Australia to verify if they were indeed infected with the coronavirus and identify the strain.
Both patients were allowed to leave the hospitals following the checkup but were placed under tight monitoring.