The Technical Working Group (TWG) earlier established by the Capitol to tackle issues regarding the dreaded new coronavirus will convene its members on Friday afternoon after the first confirmed 2019-nCoV case in the country was confirmed by the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday.
The TWG’s spokesperson Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez said that they will still discuss further measures to be taken to prevent the entry of the deadly disease which killed over 100 people and sickened hundreds worldwide, but assured that the province’s health personnel and airport and seaport authorities are already on alert and are implementing stringent monitoring and quarantine procedures.
On Thursday afternoon, Health Sec. Francisco Duque III announced that a 38-year-old woman from Wuhan, China who traveled to the Philippines via Hong Kong was confirmed to have been infected with the disease. She is confined at “one of the country’s government hospitals.”
According to Lopez, he supports the national government’s mulled full banning of people travelling from Hubei Province—where the city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, is located—from entering the country.
He said that they will coordinate with the DOH to get results of the contact-tracing conducted by health authorities to determine who the nCoV patient was in contact with, particularly as she was noted to have traveled to the neighboring province of Cebu and Dumaguete City.
Meanwhile, Provincial Tourism Council president Lucas Nunag said that Pan Pacific Airlines which offers two direct, round-trip flights between Chengdu, China and Bohol on Mondays and Fridays has suspended its trips.
Camella Clenuar of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in Panglao confirmed on Friday that no Pan Pacific Airlines flight from China arrived at the Bohol Panglao International Airport this week. She however noted that there has been no official notice from the airline explaining why there were no flights.
According to Lopez, the two Chinese nationals aged two and 36 who showed symptoms of the disease and were briefly quarantined at two separate hospitals in Tagbilaran City last week, tested negative for coronavirus.
“They were just experiencing normal colds,” he said.
Local health authorities received the test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City on Sunday last week.
Meanwhile, both Chinese nationals have left the country.
Lopez said that they have set up isolation units at the Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital in Tagbilaran City where suspected nCoV patients will be confined pending confirmatory tests.
Heightened alert has also been imposed at the BPIA and the province’s seaports, which however are still waiting for the allotment of thermal scanners from the Philippine Ports Authority to detect passengers with fever which may indicate illness.
The health official advised the public to maintain good personal hygiene which “goes a long way” in preventing infection and to avoid being amidst large crowds.
“Ang simple na pagpanghunaw na makakuha nana dayon sa possible infection, ug kining atong lawas himuon nato na condition siya, healthy ang atong immune system,” he said. “Dili ta mag-abuso sa atong lawas, husta sa pahuway, ug mo kaon sa saktong pagkaon ug mahimo mag-maintan ta og vitamins.”
Lopez also appealed for sobriety amid the confirmation of the country’s first case of 2019-nCoV, assuring the public that local authorities are on top of the situation.
The province’s TWG was established by acting Governor Rene Relampagos last week in efforts to prevent the spread of the nCoV and for local government authorities to be self-reliant in coming up with measures against the disease while awaiting advisories and guidelines from the national government.
The set emergency meeting on Friday afternoon will be the second time that members of the TWG are convened. (with R. Tutas)