Dr. Mary Ann Navaro (left) of the PHO and Vice Governor Dennis Socrates (right) update the media on the province's response to the novel coronavirus crisis.

The provincial government announced Monday that it will create a temporary committee for the specific task of managing Palawan’s safety against the possible entry of the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease.

Vice governor Dennis Socrates made the announcement in a press conference, claiming the creation of the ad hoc body came from a meeting called by Governor Jose Alvarez on February 1.

“Gusto ko lang ibalita na two days ago, Governor JCA called a meeting to organize and convene an ad hoc crisis management committee of the provincial government to contain the nCoV crisis,” Socrates said.

He said the committee will be in charge of the coordination that is necessary to face the crisis. Among others, it will be composed of representatives from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO).

Socrates said the creation of the special committee is “to assure the constituents” that the provincial government is “on top of the situation”.

“We are closely coordinating with our national agencies and our local government units sa pagharap sa problemang ito. At the same time, we want to avoid panic. We want to keep our people calm, but we are on alert and we are doing everything that can be done to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Socrates said.

Socrates said provincial legal officer Atty. Teodor Jose Matta is already drafting an executive order to be signed by governor Alvarez containing the protocols, instructions, and measures that should be undertaken by all concerned.

He added the executive order will be followed by a resolution or an ordinance in the Provincial Board on Tuesday, February 4.

Thermal scanner procurement

Socrates said he is not aware of any more on the part of the provincial government to purchase additional thermal scanners and infrared thermometers, but if there is such a need, they will be prepared “to look for funds to make the procurement”.

“Right now, ang ating tinitingnan ‘yong personal na pag-iingat din ng ating mga kababayan so, it’s more information dissemination. Everyone should do his part na hindi tayo maging pasyente ng nCoV acute respiratory disease,” he said.

Previously, a measure seeking Alvarez’ intervention on the acquisition of the instruments for Palawan ports of entry was filed at the Provincial Board.

Board member Eduardo Modesto Rodriguez, chair of the committee on health, said the heat scans are ideal in screening high body temperature to prevent the widespread occurrence of infectious diseases, particularly the nCoV, a new strain that has been reported to be fast-moving and aggressive.

Rodriguez said the thermal scanner costs around P1 million to acquire.


‘No need to panic, no nCoV case in Palawan’

Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, head of the PHO, said that to date, Palawan has no confirmed nCoV cases after confirmatory tests done on the two persons under investigation (PUI) turned negative late last week.

Palawan previously placed a 6-year-old Taiwanese boy and a 10-year-old Brazilian girl in isolation after they showed flu-like symptoms. However, confirmatory test results from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) did not indicate any findings that would further require them to be isolated.

“Fortunately, as of today, Palawan has no confirmed cases. The PUI turned out to be negative for the 2019-nCoV,” Navarro said, adding residents of the province should not let their guards down.

She said since nCoV is not airborne, there is no need for the public to panic. All they have to do is to fight it with “WUHAN” which stands for “Washing hands with soap and water frequently or use hand sanitizers; Use face mask properly; Have temperature checked regularly; Avoid large crowds, and Never touch the face with unclean hands”.

Cough etiquette, especially at this time, should be observed strictly, including proper hygiene, Navarro said.

She also cautioned families against bringing their infant children to the malls, public markets, and other crowded places as they are susceptible to infectious diseases.

“Maraming tao dyan, hindi mo alam kung sino ang uubo at puwede siyang mahawa. Lalong-lalo na ‘yong mga at risk na patients, ‘yong mga may sakit na dati — hypertension, diabetes, ‘yong nagche-chemotherapy — those are at risk. So, sana huwag muna nating dadalhin ‘yong mga infants, mga bata sa mall,” she said.

In the Philippines, the health department said it has recorded the first death of a patient due to novel coronavirus, citing it is the initial recorded passing away of a patient infected outside China.

Another patient, a 38-years-old woman from Wuhan, remains in isolation at the San Lazaro Hospital.