PH ports ramp up screening process for travelers vs coronavirus threat
Robie de Guzman • January 23, 2020 • 556
MANILA, Philippines – Airports, seaports and other transportation hub in the country will be ramping up screening processes for arrivals amid the threat of a new coronavirus strain spreading internationally, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Thursday.
In a statement, the DOTr said transit hubs in the country have been ordered to intensify measures to stop the illness from potentially entering the Philippines ahead of the expected influx of passengers for the celebration of Chinese New year on January 25.
“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,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
In response to Tugade’s directive, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco said they have reactivated their communicable disease preparedness procedures and airport frontline personnel were advised to wear face masks, maintain proper hygiene and practice regular handwashing.
“Posting of public advisories informing about coronavirus infections and the strict monitoring of suspected passengers are also being enforced,” Sydiongco said.
He added that airport personnel were also directed to exercise extreme vigilance in handling passenger arrivals to strictly monitor those who are possibly infected by the virus.
Sydiongco also assured they are tightly monitoring arriving passengers, especially at the Kalibo International Airport, which has direct flights from Wuhan City in China – the area where the new strain of coronavirus was first detected on December 31, 2019.
The Philippine Ports Authority also ordered all ports in the country to intensify passenger screening at arrival areas, especially in places frequently visited by tourists such as Bohol and Caticlan in Aklan.
The Philippine Coast Guard, for its part, advised all its medical units to be on high alert to prevent the possible spread of new coronavirus strain in the country.
The DOTr also assured that stricter passenger screening processes are also in place land terminals and railway networks.
“As we implement preventive measures and stringent monitoring of passengers in our transportation hubs nationwide, we implore the public to cooperate with the authority and also be vigilant in their travels at all times,” Tugade said.
The death toll from the novel coronavirus called 2019-nCov has risen to 17, with over 400 individuals infected across China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, United States, Taiwan and Macau.
There is no confirmed case yet of 2019-nCoV in the Philippines, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, but they are monitoring several individuals who were reported to have manifested symptoms of respiratory illness.
Common symptoms of 2019-nCoV include cough, throat irritation and fever. The World Health Organization (WHO) said novel coronavirus causes respiratory infections which may develop into severe cases such as pneumonia, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death if left untreated.
Coronavirus, which is a large group of viruses common among animals, causes illness ranging from the common cold to more serious diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The virus can be transmitted to humans through contact with an infected person or animal.
The Port Management Office of Lanao del Norte has allowed a 7-year-old cancer patient to travel to Cebu for his treatment amid the community quarantine.
Iligan City was placed under community quarantine last March 16 to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the area.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said the patient left Iligan on April 5 through the assistance of the local government unit (LGU) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
The DOTr said that the community quarantine has caused a delay in the child’s medical check-up and it was imperative for them to allow him to travel to Cebu due to his already serious condition.
“Hindi na maaari pang ipagpaliban ang pagpapagamot sa bata dahil na rin sa kanyang maselang kalagayan (The child’s treatment can no longer be delayed because of his serious condition),” the DOTr said. AAC
As the whole world is struggling to fight the coronavirus pandemic, one of the unexpected outcomes for Chinese people is more clean skies.
China had a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide pollution in cities like Beijing during February, when factories and streets were closed as authorities attempted to stop the spread of the virus, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) Copernicus satellite image.
Analysis by Greenpeace shows that the pollutant emissions in Beijing and its surrounding areas dropped by more than 40% year-on-year in February.
Compared to previous years, the air in the capital has seen a big improvement during the outbreak. Streets and landmarks are no longer covered in smog.
Beijing resident Liu Chuan takes this as a potential health benefit, saying that he could even see stars at night after work.
“It feels like the air is overall much less polluted than it used to be. It also improves people’s mood, and indirectly strengthens the immunity. It’s good for fighting the virus,” added Liu.
However, expert warns the air pollution and carbon emissions may soon reappear as Chinese factories are ramping up output in an effort to offset the economic hit of coronavirus.
“We can’t rule out the possibility that it may cause air pollution frequently if a large scale of high-polluting industries resume production,” said Lyn Liu, a Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner. (Reuters)
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has partnered with 2GO shipping for the use of the latter’s passenger vessels as quarantine ships.
In a statement on Facebook, the DOTr announced that they will use 2GO’s passenger vessels as quarantine ships for returning seafarers and Overseas Filipino Worker (OFWs) who will undergo the 14-day quarantine.
2GO shipping has agreed to convert two of their ships which can accommodate up to 1,500 patients and are set to be operational by next week.
According to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, most of the hospitals in Metro Manila have already reached their full capacity and are seeking assistance.
“Most hospitals in Metro Manila have already pleaded for help in attending to COVID-19 patients. We will deploy these ‘quarantine ships’ to help our hospitals, our health workers, and our countrymen,” he said. AAC
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