The New Clark City facility in Capas, Tarlac, where 45 repatriated Filipinos from Hubei province in China will be quarantined for 14 days, will be on lockdown to allay fears that the novel coronavirus could spread to nearby communities, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday.
Duque said a number of local government units had opposed the presence of a quarantine facility for Filipinos returning from China near their communities.
But Duque said nCoV was not like “measles, TB (tuberculosis) or chickenpox, which is airborne,” he said, and would not infect communities near the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City.
“So do not worry,” he said.
The first batch of Filipinos from China is set to arrive in the Philippines early Sunday morning. They will be transferred to the facility in Tarlac for a 14-day quarantine.
Upon alighting at the Clark International Airport from the chartered plane that will take them from Hubei, the DOH-Bureau of Quarantine will screen all the 45 returning Filipinos.
Duque said they will also be screened for the symptoms of the novel coronavirus in Hubei before boarding the chartered plane that would take them to the Philippines. He said those with symptoms would not be allowed to board the plane as Chinese authorities will place them in quarantine.
On the other hand, passengers showing the symptoms of the coronavirus when they land here will be immediately admitted as patients under investigation in assigned hospitals. Those showing no symptoms will be transported to the New Clark City facility.
Duque expressed regret that Filipinos have lost their sense of “bayanihan” or cooperation.
“It’s sad. All of those which I reached out to, they’re against [the quarantine facility],” he said.
“I said, ‘Who will take care of our fellow Filipinos but Filipinos themselves?’ We cannot expect others to take care of our fellow countrymen if we ourselves would not take care of them,” he said.
The health chief said the people should show some patriotism, especially now that the country is facing a major threat.
The government had initially planned to quarantine the repatriated Filipinos in the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
But since the facility is not ready for occupancy, Duque said they opted to house the returning Filipinos in a facility built for the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.
In a statement, Capas City Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan said the DOH did not “in any way” involve the local government of Capas when it decided to use the New Clark City complex as a quarantine zone.
“We acknowledge that the Bases Conversion and Development Authority [BCDA] has full jurisdiction over NCC, but I, as the mayor of Capas, appeal in behalf of all Capaseños to our dear President Rodrigo Duterte and DOH Secretary Francisco Duque to consider another place or facility as isolation area,” he said.
“The Capas City Council held an emergency session Friday morning to discuss the sudden and uncoordinated move of the DOH to use the Athletes’ Village at the New Clark City... as a quarantine facility for the Filipino workers being repatriated from the epicenter of the 2019 deadly novel coronavirus,” the Capas City Information Office said in a separate Facebook post.
The BCDA said, however, that preventive and precautionary measures are in place in New Clark City, where Filipinos to be repatriated from China’s Hubei province would be quarantined.
“We would like to assure the municipality of Capas and its officials that the national government will address all the issues and concerns raised following the decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to use New Clark City as a quarantine site for our repatriated kababayans,” the BCDA said in a statement released Friday.
“All preventive and precautionary measures are being put in place by the Task Force not only for our repatriated kababayans, but to also ensure that the adjacent communities of New Clark City and all Capaseños are kept safe and protected,” the BCDA added.
The Athlete’s Village, along with other facilities for the 2019 SEA Games, is the first development in the 9,450-hectare New Clark City.
The Department of Health said there would be limited contact with the community if the repatriated Filipinos stay within the New Clark City property.
On Thursday, Duque III said the repatriated OFWs would be oriented on the quarantine process and asked to fill up health cards.
Centralized processing of all immigration documents will also be done, he added.
The Bureau of Quarantine will coordinate the disinfection of the OFWs’ luggage and the airplane while the Central Health Development Central Luzon will be in charge of disinfecting the vehicles used for transport.
Since the returning Filipinos would be provided packed meals and other needs, Duque said their movement shall be limited to the quarantine building.
The DOH will be in charge of the management coordination and logistics of the quarantine process.
All DOH hospitals in the region will be in charge of deploying medical teams to the quarantine area.
A team from the Department of Foreign Affairs arrived in Wuhan City for the repatriation of Filipino workers there.
“We already have our DFA team inside Wuhan City for the repatriation of our OFWs. They are on the ground and they’re taking the risk,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay said in a statement.
Dulay said 45 Filipinos have so far confirmed their intention to be repatriated.
Officials on Friday said normal flight operations at the Clark International Airport will not be affected by the arrival of Filipinos repatriated from Hubei, China as the airport management decided not to use the main terminal building for that purpose. The returning workers will be processed in a separate area instead.
In related developments:
* The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines urged the airline chartered by the government to provide its pilots and cabin crew with hazard pay for the mission. “We are asking the airline management to provide their cabin crew and their pilots a 14-day quarantine period hazard pay as they undergo the mandatory period after their journey from Hubei. Right now, these cabin crew and pilots didn’t have hazard pay compensation for the several trips they had and the mandatory quaratine period they made had days ago,” said TUCP president Raymond Mendoza.
* The Filipino seafarer earlier tested positive with novel coronavirus on board Diamond Princess cruise liner in Japan is in stable condition at a hospital, a Philippine Embassy official Tokyo said Friday. In a radio interview, Deputy Chief of Mission to Japan Robespierre Bolivar said that the nCoV-stricken sailor is responding well to medical treatment by a hospital in Japan. He said there are 538 Filipinos onboard the cruise ship, 531 crew members and seven guest passengers.
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