HEALTH Secretary Francisco Duque III yesterday said 45 more persons are being probed for the novel coronavirus (nCoV), bringing to 178 the number of persons under investigation (PUI) for the virus in the country.
Out of the 178, 147 are under quarantine in various hospitals while 16 have been discharged. At least 10 more have refused admission to hospitals, Duque said.
“We are already in coordination with the Philippine National Police for them to compel those refusing admission to undergo testing and be isolated,” Duque said in a press conference.
Duque also said the Athletes Village at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac that was used for the Southeast Asian Games last December, will be used to quarantine Filipinos returning from Hubei, the central province in China whose capital is Wuhan, where the virus that has so far claimed the lives of 563 persons is believed to have originated.
The New Clark City, built at a cost of P9.5 billion, has for its main feature the controversial P55 million cauldron or “kaldero” for the SEA Games flame.
“We plan to bring back our fellow Filipinos here in the country as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. Procedures were set into place from the moment our OFW kababayans board the plane up until their arrival at New Clark City,” Duque said, adding the New Clark City facility was chosen because of its strategic location.
Last Wednesday, officials said the Mega Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (DATRC) in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija will be used to quarantine the returning Filipinos.
“The rooms (at Clark) are with almost complete amenities with refrigerators, televisions, individualize toilets, which is very good, unlike in Fort Magsaysay, where the toilets will have to be shared,” said Duque.
While the quarantine facility has been finalized, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said they have yet to secure clearance from Chinese authorities for the repatriation of Filipinos from Hubei.
“As of now, we have no clearance yet,” said Dulay. “This is not just a Philippine endeavor but also of China.”
He said at least 45 Filipinos have signified their intention to be repatriated. Dulay said if they manage to secure a clearance, the Filipinos are set to leave Hubei on Feb. 8.
As part of the agreed protocol, Chinese health personnel will check the Filipinos boarding the plane, to be assisted by five DOH personnel. Those who will exhibit signs of the virus will be brought to a medical facility in China.
Duque said the movement of the quarantined people shall be limited to the building only, with packed lunch to be served for them every day.
Upon completion of the 14-day quarantine period, Duque said the repatriated OFWs shall be turned over to the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority (OWWA) in coordination with the DFA.
The DOH said as of yesterday, only three patients, all Chinese, have tested positive for the virus, including the 44-year-old Chinese man who died last Saturday. The two others were the 38-year-old female companion of the deceased who is still under observation at the San Lazaro hospital and the 60-year-old woman who was allowed to return to Wuhan last Jan. 31.
The DOH said of the 178 PUIs, 48 have tested negative while 127 continue to await for laboratory test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
DOH Undersecretary Eric Domingo said they expect the 2019-nCoV problem to be on a decline “in one to two months.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the OWWA is providing assistance to an OFW found positive of the 2019-nCoV aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship anchored off the coast of Yokohama, Japan.
Bello also reported the death of a 58-year-old OFW in Dubai, United Arab Emirates last Jan. 29, not from nCoV but from the Middle East respiratory syndrome – coronavirus (MERS-CoV), one of the strains of the coronavirus.
“It was confirmed as coronavirus as of Feb. 2,” said Bello, adding “I didn’t see 2019-nCoV (as the cause of death).”
CIDG HELPS IN CONTACT TRACING
The PNP Criminal Investigation Group said six passengers of two flights boarded by the Chinese couple that tested positive for the virus have shown signs of infection.
Three of them were passengers from the Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 241 from Cebu City to Dumaguete City on Jan. 21. There were 61 other passengers on the flight, 23 of them contacted through phone by the CIDG.
Col. Rhoderick Armamento, CIDG deputy director for operations, said one of the three is in quarantine at a provincial hospital while the two are in self-quarantine in their house.
“We immediately reported this to the DOH and they are now probably in the area doing intervention,” said Armamento.
Three other passengers from PAL 2452 flight from Dumaguete City to Manila on Jan. 25 also showed signs of infection. There were 132 passengers aboard the PAL flight, excluding the infected couple, with 25 having by contacted by the CIDG. “Three are now on quarantine in different hospitals,” the CIDG said.
Yesterday, the PNP issued an appealing to the passengers of the three flights to contact the PNP Operations Center (0917-847-5757), CIDG operations center (0998-598-8167 and 0927-717-0752) or the DOH at (632) 8651-7800 local 5003-5004; (632) 165-364 and 0918-8888364.
The military said security measures are in place for arriving Filipino workers from Wuhan, China who will be quarantined at Fort Magsaysay, home to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, in Nueva Ecija.
“In terms of security, we will control the outside portions of the facility but inside it, it will be all Department of Health,” said 7th ID commander Maj. Gen. Lenard Agustin.
The facility is part of the drug rehabilitation facility constructed a few years ago to rehabilitate drug dependents.
LGUS MAKE MOVE
The local government of Pasay has ordered organizers and venue owners to set up strict precautionary measures against the possible spread of the virus in coming concerts and other events in the city while Makati City placed its city health and rescue personnel on high alert status.
Dr. Ma. Lourdes San Juan, Pasay’s assistant city health officer, said all persons attending concerts and other events should be checked for their body temperatures.
Makati Mayor Abby Binay said the current situation compels them to establish long-term solutions to handle similar scenarios in the future.
“Our immediate concern now is to put in place needed systems, protocols and resources to ensure we are covering all the bases in preventing the transmission and spread of the novel coronavirus in the city,” she said.
All business and commercial establishments, including Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators in the city, have been directed to submit the names of all their employees who recently visited China and its Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau.
Establishments that fail to comply will face revocation of their business permits. – With Victor Reyes and Rod Lagusad