The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is working in coordination with the Department of Health and the Bureau of Quarantine to secure all airports against the coronavirus.
READ: Global health emergency eyed over outbreak
The agency is now monitoring arriving passengers from China, especially in Kalibo International Airport, which has direct flights from Wuhan and other Chinese cities.
CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco has already ordered the reactivation of communicable disease preparedness procedures in CAAP-operated international airports such as Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Zamboanga, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, and Iloilo.
The airports were also advised to exercise extreme vigilance in handling entering passengers possibly infected by the new coronavirus.
Protocols are already in place in the airports where airport frontline personnel have been advised to wear face masks, maintain proper hygiene, and practice regular hand washing.
Posting of public advisories informing about coronavirus infections and the strict monitoring of suspected passengers are now also being enforced.
READ: 17 new cases of mystery virus
Aside from operating seven international airports, CAAP also manages 35 domestic airports that are open to commercial operations.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal also tightened its medical quarantine protocols to prevent the virus’ entry into the country. Authorities placed thermal scanners at the NAIA’s arrival areas.
Immigration officers and all frontline government workers detailed in all Philippine ports were advised to wear protective masks to protect themselves from the risk of acquiring a new strain of coronavirus that originated from China.
The SARS-like virus that has spread across China and reached three other Asian nations can be passed from human to human, the Department of Health said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Wednesday the Philippines remains free from the 2019 novel coronavirus, (2019-nCoV), the SARS-like virus, as the World Health Organization said it is still “too early” to panic.
Speaking in yesterday’s “Kapihan sa Manila Bay,” Duque said there is yet no case of the 2019-nCoV in the country even as the Department of Health probed the case of a five-year-old Chinese boy who might be afflicted with the new virus.
While the young boy from Wuhan, China
, was placed on isolation in a health facility in Cebu, Duque said he was already well.
READ: PH probes SARS-like virus case
Duque also said the young boy’s mother, who arrived with him in the Philippines Jan. 12 “to learn English,” did not manifest any symptoms and tested negative for the new virus.
Nonetheless, Duque said they are still awaiting the results of the laboratory tests from Australia based on throat samples taken from the boy.
Duque also said the doctors and nurses who attended to the young boy have also been placed in isolation as part of the protocol.
WHO Representative to the Philippines Rabindra Aheyasinghe said: “it’s too early to say that it is a very severe infection that causes death.”
“We are in the early stages of trying to understand how severe this infection is and how many deaths it is likely to cause,” he said.
READ: Major SARS-like outbreak feared amid third death outside of China
“Much remains unknown about the virus, including the mode of transmission and severity,” Ayehasingye said.
Duque also said there is still no need for travel restrictions to China, particularly to Wuhan, where the virus originated.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, meanwhile, called on the Department of Education to put schools on alert and ensure that preventive measures are in place to protect students from the new coronavirus.
While there are no confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV in the Philippines to date, Gatchalian said schools should exhaust all measures from information dissemination to intensified sanitary measures to keep students, school employees and workers safe.
Senator Nancy Binay called on the DOH and other government agencies to prepare an emergency response plan and ensure that the government is fully equipped to address a possible outbreak of a mysterious respiratory disease from China.
“It might be best for the DOH to review the protocols in place and check if the necessary people are prepared to implement these if needed,” Binay said.