NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
There is no Boholano case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) while the province has now zero patient under investigation (PUI), according to the technical working group whose hard work and dedication now earn praises.
Technical Working Group (TWG) on Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases spokesperson Dr. Cesar Tomas Lopez said the “very good news” must not, however, cause to relax Bohol’s measures as new competent national advisories are still expected.
Lopez pointed out that yesterday, February 15, was the 15th day from January 31 when the Chinese woman left Bohol.
“We are no longer considering any PUIs from her contacts if any symptoms appear tomorrow (Feb. 16 or today) and onward because the WHO observation protocol only says ’14 days’ from close contact with a positive case,” Lopez said
No Boholano has been infected by the Wuhan virus to date while the 11 remaining PUIs all tested negative and were discharged from hospitals on Thursday and Friday, Lopez said in the press briefing and update text to the media last Friday.
As they tested negative for COVID-19 resulting from their sample examinations by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), most of the PUIs had gone asymptomatic or no longer shown symptoms.
Others had only common colds or mild cough.
Nine of the 11 PUIs included the third nurse who also attended to the virus-positive 60-year-old Chinese woman at a private hospital, and four crewmen and five passengers of the fast craft boarded by the said tourist from Cebu to Bohol on January 20.
The 10th was the driver of the tricycle transporting the Chinese upon her discharge from the hospital to the city port when she left Bohol for Cebu to return to China on January 31.
The 11th was a passenger of the same vessel boarded by the Chinese in departing Bohol.
The COVID-19-infected Chinese visitor had gone stable and recovered and so she was released from the hospital.
The two other nurses were discharged earlier last week for also testing negative.
Previously, two young American women were also managed in hospital isolation but released later on as they were diagnosed for infection leading to gastroenteritis.
Based on the Department of Health (DOH) and World Health Organization (WHO) 14-day observation protocol, they had to undergo isolation assessment since they went to Beijing, China from the USA before proceeding to Bohol.
According to the WHO protocol, 14 days constitute the inclusive period from the time the virus sticks to the human tissue and incubates until symptoms arise.
Gov. Arthur Yap has kept getting updates from the TWG through Lopez despite what also the latter calls “good development and a big relief.”
But then, again, Bohol has to expect further relevant advice from the DOH and national guidance, he said.
The ban on the Philippine entry of Chinese nationals from mainland China and its administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau stays until it will be lifted by the Palace.
RITM IN VIS-MIN
Lopez foresaw the need for the TWG to be a permanent body through a provincial ordinance after it was constituted by the executive order issued by Acting Gov. Rene Relampagos.
By this, the TWG can ably become a policy-making body that is prepared at all future times, he said.
He suggested for the creation also of an RITM facility in the Visayas and Mindanao for easy and fast access to urgent laboratory services which are critical to emergency management.
As another proactive move, the regional evacuation center in Tagbilaran City has been identified for ready additional isolation facility.
The TWG, through Lopez, thanked City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II and the City Health Office for offering the site as requested by the province.
The limited isolation facility at Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital was then already 80% occupied, thus calling for the prepositioning of an additional medical isolation quarantine area.
The area was already evaluated also for tool installation and the doctors were “satisfied,” Lopez said.
Capitol and city hall will counterpart for the secured, safe and efficient operation of the site, even including the food provision for the staff, workers and patients.
First District Rep. Edgar Chatto said it pays to “anticipate always for any possibilities without losing our senses.”
By this, “we can suit our readiness instead of getting hostage by unnecessary fear and panic which can be more harmful, he said.
For Chatto, the coronavirus scare has also challenged the Boholanos’ psychological bend.
UNIT IN THE TWG
In the press briefing, Lopez welcomed the suggestion to include the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) in the TWG amid the spread of fake news creating fear, panic and confusion.
Camp Dagohoy has a new ACG satellite unit which is the only in a province in the country since the PNP-ACG at Camp Crame has been headed by Gen. Dennis Agustin, former Bohol police commander.
Lopez and the TWG have themselves been victims of social media posts which falsely accused or insinuated that the province did nothing against the Chinese coronavirus.
He is already “immuned,” though, of lie posts from usual sources, saying “everything we do is wrong man gyod anang mga tawhana.”
HEARD, BUT NOT
“God has heard our prayer, but we don’t stop praying,” Lopez told the media people who, in a number of briefings, included national and regional journalists.
On behalf of the provincial leadership and TWG, Lopez thanked the Boholanos “for our gainful vigilance with God’s grace and blessing.” (Ven rebo Arigo)