NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Bohol has seven persons under investigation (PUIs) for novel coronavirus, with the continued contact tracing undertaken to contain the spread of the virus.
However, local health authorities reminded the public that there is no need to panic as these seven persons being monitored are confined in isolation at hospitals, thus the spread of the virus should not be feared.
Of the 235 passengers who took the 5:40 p.m. trip of Oceanjet from Cebu to Tagbilaran City on January 20 with the 60-year-old woman from China, DOH team managed to trace 43, so far.
One of them was Board Member Vierna Mae Boniel-Maglasang.
Of the 43 passengers contact-traced, only two were placed as PUIs- -a crewmember of the fastcraft and a co-passenger of the January 20-5:40 p.m. trip.
Four of the 43 had just been added in the list as of Saturday.
Many of the 235 passengers had informed Tarsier 117 that they are feeling well and so they were no longer included in the list.
Assistant provincial health officer, Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez, who serves as spokesperson of the Technical Working Group on the novel coronavirus issue, explained that they segregate the PUIs into PUIs per se and PUIs who came in contact with the 60-year-old Chinese woman.
The seven PUIs include the two American women who submitted themselves for isolation at the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital (GCGMH) and five persons located as a result of contract tracing.
As of Friday, one more nurse at the hospital where the 60-year-old Chinese woman (the confirmed case) was confined was added to the list of PUIs classified as those who had in contact with the confirmed case.
This means there are now three nurses of the hospital who are confined at the isolation units of the same hospital they are employed.
The two persons contact-traced by Friday- -the crewmember of the fastcraft and the passenger were isolated now after they had reported of having cough and slight fever.
Lopez clarified that PUIs are not confirmed case.
In fact, the result of the first test on the swab specimen of the two Americans proved negative of coronavirus but found other bacteria that caused their colds.
In the assessment of the physician attending to them, they are likely to be discharged from confinement as their condition are getting better. But GCGMH is still waiting for the results of the second swab specimen taken from them.
Lopez said the laboratory results on specimen from the five others are expected over the weekend.
The lab results for the first two nurses classified as PUIs were more certain to have been ready by the weekend.
The second set of specimen from them and the first for the third nurse had just been sent as of Saturday to the RITM.
Lopez also said that the co-passenger informed the incident management team that he has asthma that just by slight irritant, he catches colds, but just the same, he was admitted at the hospital for isolation.
The Oceanjet crewmember, for his part, reached out the team because he had fever and colds.
The two are also confined at the isolation units of GCGMH.
The third nurse be classified as PUI had common colds.
However, nobody’s getting serious, Lopez clarified.
As of now, Lopez discourages school activities and advised schools to rescheduled them to efficiently contain the spread of any virus.
On the part of the provincial government, Gov. Art Yap said that even while on suspensión, he had been in contact with key provincial officials and other sectors to keep abreast of the happenings in the province.
When consulted, Yap said he suggested the provincial government purchase around 50 non-contact thermometers to be added to the existing ones and be placed at the airport and seaports to boost the monitoring at all ports of entry.
Face masks and a score of disinfectant have to be provided to the responders like hospital staff, Yap said.
He also said he had asked the mayors to postpone activities that would draw crowd.
Yap advised the public not to be carried away by hysteria and panic and would just need to practice proper hygiene and boost their immune system and extend their patience with the situation for about just a month until the concern on novel coronavirus subsides.
For her part, Provincial Administrator Kath Pioquinto clarified that there has been no statement that there is no threat of novel coronavirus but what the DOH has stated was an assurance to the public that there is no need to panic and that the problem is being addressed.
The DOH meant that the public can behave in a civilized and in a calm manner because the virus is not that widespread and is calling everybody to contribute in their own way to help contain the spread of the coronavirus by practicing the hygiene, by boosting their immune system and also to inform the others, Pioquinto added.
She also shared that as Lopez had earlier cited, the statistics showing that about 28,000 persons are infected and 562 deaths worldwide means the mortality is two percent only of all the cases which also means that if one maintains a healthy body and boosts his immune system, he less likely to catch the virus.
The Provincial Health Office also assured that the province is ready, since the protocol is in place and, in fact, Bohol is the first province to have issued an executive order, through Acting Gov. Rene Relampagos, organizing the TWG to address not only coronavirus but all novel diseases, according to Pioquinto.
Provincial Administrator Pioquinto also explained that there is also no sense panicking for the scarcity of masks and alcohol as the public can simply exercise proper hygiene, boost their immune system by having enough rest and taking Vitamin C, stay away from crowded places and if cannot be avoided, one can wear masks to prevent getting the virus.
Holding activities that would draw a crowd is also discouraged and it is the reason the concert for Tabang Taal set on February 20 has been postponed.
Monitoring of points of entry is now heightened, and a thermal scanner is in place at the airport, while health declaration forms are in ports.
There are designated holding rooms at the ports, for which DOH augmented workforce through NDP nurses on shifting schedule at ports and they use standard decision tool of DOH based on WHO guidelines. Infrared thermometers will also be provided to the nurses.
The Provincial Government oriented local chief executives and will also orient health workers at municipal level. The orientation includes a situationer on nCoV – International, Philippine, and Bohol response.