32 Pinoys back from Wuhan, whisked to Clark quarantine area


    THIRTY-TWO Filipinos arrived yesterday at the Clark International Airport in Tarlac from China’s Wuhan City, the epicenter of the new coronavirus that has killed at least 811 persons, infected some 37,400 individuals, and spread to 27 countries and regions.

    The Department of Health said the repatriates were composed of 30 Filipinos working in China and two staff members at the Philippine consulate.

    “All 32 repatriates landed safely and free of any signs and symptoms. Hence, they were all sent to the New Clark City for close observation and monitoring for 14 days,” the DOH said.

    The Philippines has reported three positive nCoV cases in the country, including a 44-year-old Chinese man who had traveled from Wuhan and died in a government-run hospital in Manila.

    There were more than 230 “patients under investigation” for coronavirus infection in the country as of Saturday, including around 100 in Manila, according to the health department.

    The DOH said the 32 repatriates underwent a three-level screening process. The first was when they were screened before they boarded the chartered flight to determine if they have symptoms of the novel coronavirus (nCoV). They were also closely monitored by a DOH-Department of Foreign Affairs team aboard the chartered Royal Air flight. The last screening was when they landed at Clark.

    The DFA said the repatriates did not go through the Clark International Airport terminal but went straight to the Haribon Hangar of the Air Force, where they were transported via buses to the quarantine site at the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City, Tarlac.

    The flight crew as well as the DFA-DOH response team will also undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine, the DFA said.

    The DOH said the 32 will be regularly monitored to ensure their health and safety while on quarantine. If any of them will show symptoms for nCoV, they will be transferred to a hospital for close monitoring, it said.

    NEW PUIs, PUMs

    The DOH-Regional Office 12 (Soccsksargen) confirmed the region’s first case of a patient under investigation (PUI) for nCoV.

    The DOH said the patient was placed in “strict isolation and medical management” in an undisclosed hospital while a specimen was sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City.

    “The reported PUI should not prompt fear from the public since the patient is still under investigation and is not yet positively confirmed for the nCov virus,” the DOH said in a statement.

    Several soldiers and their dependents who have traveled to China, Hong Kong, and Macau ad showed nCoV symptoms are confined at the military hospital V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City as “persons under monitoring (PUMs)” and “persons under investigation,” said Capt. Sherwin Joseph Sarmiento, spokesman of the AFP’s Hospital Service Command.

    Sarmiento said the soldiers and dependents are isolated at the infectious ward of the hospital.

    “We have an intended infectious ward. They are isolated. They are separated as PUI or PUM. They are admitted (at the hospital) and we have doctors dedicated for them who are also under quarantine,” said Sarmiento.

    Sarmiento declined to give the number of soldiers and dependents who are confined at the hospital and their identities, citing data privacy, confidentiality of the patients, and security concerns.

    Sarmiento also noted that “higher ups” have ordered the Hospital Service Command not to disclose these figures to public.

    Asked for the number of PUM, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana noted the case of the wife of a military officer earlier disclosed by a Philippine Military Academy alumnus in calling for the suspension of a PMA alumni homecoming in Baguio City this weekend.

    Lorenzana has said the wife, who came from Hubei province where Wuhan City is, had herself confined at the V Luna Medical Center and later discharged after she tested negative for nCoV.

    Yesterday, Lorenzana gave more details about the case.

    “A wife of a Marine colonel went to Wuhan on January 10 to attend the wedding of a sibling. She came back on January 20 and five days later developed coughing and her one-year-old baby had a fever. They were brought to the V Luna hospital for observation,” said Lorenzana.

    Last week, a Chinese businessman in General Santos City who was placed on monitoring was cleared of nCoV after a 14-day self-quarantine period. The man was a long-time resident of the city and traveled to Wuhan for the Chinese New Year’s celebration.

    Four other Chinese from Fujian province in China were placed under quarantine in Alabel town, Sarangani province.

    A Filipino working in the United Arab Emirates has been infected with the nCoV, the official Emirati News Agency said over the weekend.

    There are some 648,900 Filipinos living and working in the UAE, the second largest after at least 865,000 in Saudi Arabia. – With Victor Reyes and Reuters