DOH searches for SoKor tourist

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    ONE of the 26 South Korean tourists that arrived in Cebu from Daegu City, one of the epicenters of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in South Korea, last Tuesday has yet to be accounted for, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

    DOH Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the male Korean initially went to Cebu and informed authorities that he’s staying in a “specific hotel.”

    “When they went there to look for him, he was not there. They are trying to locate him,” said Vergeire.

    She said that 15 South Koreans have returned home, while two more were set to depart for South Korea yesterday, Monday.

    Seven more are quarantined in different hotels in Cebu, according to Vergeire, and have signified to stay after the 14-day quarantine period.

    The 25th of the 26 has been traced in Angeles City and has been endorsed to the DOH-Central Luzon office.

    Vergeire said the 25 South Koreans were only considered as Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) and not Persons Under Investigation (PUIs).

    “We would just like to be very sure that we find all 26 of them, have them quarantined, and if they show signs and symptoms, you test them because they are coming from a place which is of high risk for all of us; they came from Daegu,” said Vergeire.

    She also said that 14 Filipinos repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship who are now quarantined at the New Clark City in Tarlac have shown signs and symptoms of the respiratory illness and have been brought to various hospitals.

    Of the 14, she said 10 have tested negative for COVID-19 while four others have pending laboratory results.

    “Eight are already set to be returned to the quarantine facility as they are already asymptomatic. They are set to complete the 14-day quarantined period,” said Vergeire.

    A total of 445 Filipinos from the Diamond Princess cruise ship moored off Yokohama, Japan, including 440 crew members and five passengers, have been placed under quarantine.

    Vergeire said 48 of the 80 Filipinos in the cruise ship that have tested positive for COVID-19 are still confined in different hospitals in Japan. She said 32 others have been discharged, with 10 having returned to the Philippines.

    “There are 22 that were also discharged, whose return flights are still being arranged by our Embassy and through the Department of Foreign Affairs. We will know more developments in the coming days,” said Vergeire.

    PERSONS UNDER PROBE

    The DOH said there are now 638 PUIs in the country, with 43 still in hospitals and 592 having been discharged.

    The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines remains at three, with two having been discharged and one death.

    Vergeire said there is still no case of local transmission in the Philippines.

    “To our countrymen manifesting symptoms but have no travel history to countries with travel ban, they don’t have to worry as these are not related to COVID-19,” said Vergeire.

    She reiterated that there is still no full travel ban to South Korea, adding the possible expansion of the ban would be discussed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATFEID) on Tuesday, including the possible imposition of travel ban to other areas with COVID-19 cases like Italy, Iran and Japan.

    She added the Philippine government is “having challenges” in sending surgical masks to Filipinos in South Korea due to the supply problem in the country.

    “So if ever our overseas Filipinos coming from abroad who are requesting for supplies, I don’t know if we can accommodate this kind of request for now because, as I’ve said, our existing logistics are just enough for our medical workers,” she said.

    She said government is still waiting on the commitment of a supplier based in Bataan about increasing its production and providing more supply of masks.

    IRAN, SPAIN UPDATED
    The Philippine Embassy in Iran yesterday announced it is temporarily shortening its operating hours, from 8:30 a.m., to 12 noon, in light of the spike in cases of the virus in the country.

    The embassy earlier said none of the 1,184 Filipinos living and working in Iran has been infected with the virus, which has already killed 54 in the country.

    Iranian authorities on Sunday confirmed 978 were infected with the virus.

    The Philippine Embassy in Japan said it will implement an online appointment for passport applicants starting March 2 for “the safety and welfare of all Filipinos due to the virus.”

    The embassy also announced the deferment of the consular outreach for Filipinos in Okinawa originally set for March 21 to 22.

    There are no Filipino workers at a hotel in Tenerife island that had been locked down by authorities after five cases of COVID-19 were detected in the area.

    Philippine Consul General Adrian Cruz said majority of the 34,000 Filipinos in Spain and Catalonia worked in hotels and restaurants but that none are working at the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel.

    CASH AID
    In less than a month, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has handed out over P81 million to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded by the series of travel bans imposed by the Philippine government due to the threat of the virus.

    Most of the OFWs affected by the travel ban are working in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. They have been given P10,000 each in cash aid.

    The OWWA-NCR said it has also disbursed P67,500 for the transportation assistance of stranded OFWs to help them return home to their respective regions. The agency said it has also provided transportation assistance to 79 OFWs, who were stranded in Metro Manila, from February 7 to February 19.

    Last month, the Philippine government imposed travel bans on China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan amid the threat of the COVID-19.

    Since then, the travel ban to Taiwan has been lifted last Feb. 15 while OFWs bound for Hong Kong and Macau were given the go-signal to fly to the said territories with the partial lifting of the ban last Feb. 19. – With Ashzel Hachero, Jocelyn Montemayor, and Raymond Africa