Health officials in the city assured it is safe and protected from the entry of the new strain of coronavirus from China. Inset photo shows an infrared thermometer that aids in monitoring the temperatures of arriving passengers at the Puerto Princesa International Airport. // Photos by Celeste Anna Formoso and Romar Miranda

Health authorities from different agencies in the city assured Monday that Puerto Princesa is “safe and protected” from the possible entry of the new strain of coronavirus from Wuhan, China.

City Health Office (CHO) chief Dr. Ric Panganiban said all passengers from international flights arriving in Puerto Princesa are now required to fill up a health checklist in relation to the spread of the novel coronavirus or the 2019-nCoV.

These international direct flights are from South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. He said the health checklist is imposed with the help of the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) to determine the travel histories of international passengers.

“Sa arrival ay mayroon tayong BOQ, may thermal scanner, may holding area, at lahat ng darating from outside the country ay fi-fill up ang checklist kung saan nakalagay lahat ng details nila, history of travel, turista ba, saan tutuloy at contact numbers nila. In case magkaroon ng symptoms ay may ibinigay tayong number ng city health, City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) and BOQ. Basically, ayon po ang measures na mayroon tayo,” Pangiban said during the Question Hour of the City Council.

Panganiban said they are implementing this as part of the safety protocol against coronavirus, telling passengers that they have to fill up the health checklist as truthfully and honestly as possible.

But Panganiban was quick to allay fears about the nCoV, reiterating that no case has been confirmed yet in the city.

“Kaya po namin [na mapigilan ang pagpasok dito sa Puerto Princesa], lahat naman ay ginagawa natin. Walang dapat ikabahala kasi ‘yong Department of Health (DOH) and other agencies are on top of this,” he added.

City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) chief Earl Timbancaya also said that they have already coordinated with the hotels and other accommodation within the city to make immediate reports should there be doubts about a guest’s health condition.

“Upon finding out ‘yong mga initial information about the nCoV ay na-convene natin ang health cluster ng city. There is a time na possible silang makapasok nawala pang symptoms, makikita lang kapag nandito na sila. Kaya we have already coordinated na sa mga hotel and other accommodations para matulungan tayo in case na merong dapat matingnan,” Timbancaya said.

Safety measures in airports, seaports

Ron Cayatoc of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said that they are currently finalizing plans to be implemented in other regional airports in Palawan, including Coron, San Vicente, and El Nido.

He said El Nido and San Vicente are yet to train their health personnel to implement the safety measures upon the landing of passengers.

“Regarding sa El Nido at San Vicente, sila ay walang medical personnel na trained ng CAAP. Sa ngayon ay pina-finalize namin ang mga plano bago ma-implement doon,” he said.

Previously, a Brazilian family of three was reported to have manifested flu-like symptoms that might be related to the coronavirus.

The DOH in the region ordered them transferred to the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) to be placed in isolation pending confirmatory tests by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). The specific patient under investigation (PUI) is the 10-year-old daughter of the foreign couple.

Specimens sent to RITM

ONP chief for medical professional staff Dr. Audie Cipriano said that specimens have already been collected from the Brazilian patient. A waiting period of 48 hours is needed to determine the result after the specimens were collected on January 25.

“Yong specimen was taken 12 midnight on Saturday, medyo nahirapan kami maghanap ng courier but we were able na ipadala sa RITM then after 48 hours ay magkakaroon ng initial result. In case na makita na coronavirus siya dadalhin pa rin sa Australia para malaman kung anong klaseng coronavirus ito,” he said.

Cipriano appealed to residents in the city to stop the spread of fake news, especially in social media, to avoid creating anxiety and panic.

He reiterated that the Brazilian patient remains in isolation and only the six-year-old Taiwanese boy was discharged because what he had was bacteria.

Cipriano said their PUI is already doing well and had, in fact, requested to eat pasta.


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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.