- Flights to/from Wuhan suspended; ports on alert
- Coast Guard activates medical units nationwide
The Health department said Thursday there are no drugs that will work on the new strain of the coronavirus as it underscored the need for the public to boost one’s immune system by observing proper hygiene.
“[There is] no medicine for it except for the so-called supportive treatment, the medicines for fever and hydration. We make sure the patient is nourished and naturally, you can clear the virus from your system,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said.
Domingo also conceded that the country has no capability to detect 2019 n-CoV since it is a novel strain of coronavirus, which was just identified.
“There should be a test kit to be developed for each virus, the test kit like primer and reagents are not yet available in the Philippines. They are only available in China and some referral centers of the World Health Organization (WHO) like that one in Japan and Australia,” Domingo said.
He cited the case of a 5-year-old Chinese boy whose throat samples wére sent to Australia after his laboratory tests from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine yielded negative results for SARs-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-CoV).
“He is a person under investigation (PUI) or suspected,” he said, adding that the tests in Australia will determine if he was afflicted with the virus that originated from Wuhan, China.
Meanwhile, all chartered flights to and from Wuhan, China were ordered suspended as part of the government’s precautionary measures against the spread of the coronavirus.
Civil Aeronautics Board director Carmelo Arcilla announced the temporary suspension following a meeting with the Transportation department and board officials on Thursday.
He said there are eight flights a week between Wuhan and other points in the Philippines.
Transportation hubs in the country have also implemented safety measures to prevent the infectious disease.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade urged vigilance in all ports of entry to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus strain.
“Please adopt all measures necessary and expedient to address the issue on coronavirus, considering world developments and the influx of passengers expected this Lunar New Year,” Tugade said.
Airport personnel were also advised to exercise extreme vigilance in handling passenger arrivals and to strictly monitor those who are possibly infected by the virus.
Airport frontline personnel have been advised to observe precautionary measures such as the wearing of face masks, maintaining proper hygiene, and regular hand washing.
Manila International Airport Authority general manager Eddie Monreal said they are in full coordination with the Bureau of Quarantine in support of their safety protocols.
Orders have also been given out to all ports operated by the Philippine Ports Authority to coordinate with the quarantine office and implement strict passenger screening at arrival areas, PPA general manager Jay Santiago said.
Santiago said that stringent security measures are also in place especially in areas frequently visited by tourists such as Bohol and Caticlan in Aklan.
The Philippine Coast Guard has also advised all medical units in its 13 Coast Guard Districts to be on high alert to prevent the possible spread of suspected coronavirus.
Strict passenger screening and safety measures are also in place on the country’s land terminals and railway networks to prevent the entry and spread of the virus.
CAAP has reactivated its communicable disease preparedness procedures on all CAAP-operated airports, especially in international gateways such as Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Zamboanga, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, and Iloilo.
Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, the operator of Mactan-Cebu International Airport, said it implemented strict precautionary measures against the novel coronavirus.
“All airlines have been advised to make a standard in-flight announcement prior to landing at MCIA advising passengers experiencing flu-like symptoms to self-declare and voluntarily submit to a medical screening by the Bureau of Quarantine upon disembarkation,” GMCAC said.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific said they are closely monitoring the spread of the Wuhan virus, and have precautionary measures in place to their flights.
Major airlines are now taking precautionary measures to prevent a coronavirus infection during flights following reports that four air travelers from Hong Kong to Manila have been exposed to a man infected with the disease.
“We have been alerted to reports from media in Hong Kong regarding four passengers aboard Cebu Pacific Flight 5J 111 (Hong Kong-Manila) which arrived Wednesday afternoon who may have been exposed to a person infected with the coronavirus,” said Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) spokesperson Charo Logarta-Lagamon.
Lagamon said all passengers and the crew aboard the flight were screened by the Bureau of Quarantine upon arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and none of them were held for further observation.
“Nonetheless, we are trying to coordinate with Hong Kong authorities to verify information in media reports,” she said.
As a precautionary measure, CEB officials urged passengers who were aboard Flight 5J 111 last Wednesday to immediately “seek medical attention should they exhibit flu-like symptoms including runny nose, cough, sore throat or fever.”
“We have also disinfected the aircraft following our standard practice for all inbound international flights. We are closely monitoring the spread of the Wuhan virus, and have precautionary measures in place for our flights,” said Lagamon.
The management of Philippine Airlines, in a separate statement, said it is also closely monitoring reports on the novel coronavirus.
“Although PAL does not operate flights to or from Wuhan, the city in China where the virus is reported to have originated, we are closely coordinating with the Philippine Department of Health and the Bureau of Quarantine along with other concerned health authorities, in taking sensible precautionary measures for the safety and protection of our passengers. This includes non-obtrusive screening at specific airports,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
Also on Thursday, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso on Thursday said that there is no case of a patient having the deadly coronavirus in the city as yet.
The mayor also said they will be distributing some 100,000 face masks to all the barangays in Manila to help protect against viruses.
In the Chinatown district of Binondo, residents did not seem alarmed by reports of the coronavirus as they prepared for the lunar new year.
Barangay 297 chairman Johnny Sy, however, advised people not to go out and participate in street activities if they are not feeling well.
One travel agency in Binondo said no bookings have been canceled as a result of the coronavirus scare. With Darwin G. Amojelar