Davao City heightens alert vs coronavirus; passengers from China, Hong Kong monitored
DAVAO CITY –– Authorities here have heightened the alert against the possible spread of the still-unknown strain of coronavirus by closely watching the arrival of passengers from China, Hong Kong, and other countries aboard direct international flights and port arrivals.
Councilor Joselle Villafuerte, chair of the city committee on health, assured the people here there was no cause for alarm yet, but the city had already activated the Task Force trained years earlier to deal with Ebola virus to respond to the still-unnamed strain of coronavirus reported to have killed at least 17 people in China and infected hundreds as it spread to different parts of the world.
“There’s no cause for alarm yet, but let’s not be complacent,” said Villafuerte.
“Although the disease has already spread in China, it’s not in the Philippines yet, and not in Davao City yet, although, we are readying all measures to deal with a possible emergency,” Villafuerte said during a meeting convened by Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte on Wednesday to beef up the city’s early response and readiness to a possible health emergency.
“This meeting activated our teams. We have a highly trained response team during the time of the Ebola. Davao City was the first to be trained (by the Department of Health) against Ebola because of Mayor Duterte. The team is still in place, so, all we need to do is activate it,” Villafuerte said.
Among those closely watched are passengers coming in aboard
international flights, the seaports, and even the overland transport terminals.
At the Davao City International Airport, thermal scanners at the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) are working and have not yet reported a sick passenger so far, Villafuerte said.
“We have two thermal scanners and both are working,” she said.
“One flight from China arrived this morning at 12:30 a.m. with 70 passengers, no one showed fever,” she said Wednesday afternoon.
“We have three direct flights from abroad–Jinjiang, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Why are we concerned? There are already 170 cases, according to news reports, not confirmed by us, that the cases have reached Hong Kong, so we really don’t know yet, but right now, we still do not see anything among those flights, no one was detected positive by the thermal scanner,” she said.
At the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), three beds have been reserved for isolation cases, Villafuerte said.
Since 2015, the city has assigned two ambulances dedicated to highly contagious cases available on stand by at SPMC and the City Health Office.
“The BOQ requested one ambulance (for contagious diseases) because all they have are ambulances intended for fires at the airport,” she said.
“Of course, we can use that during emergencies, but (if it would be used for highly contagious cases, it can’t be used) within 24 hours, it would need to be disinfected.”
“Central 911 offered one ambulance for isolation cases, so right now, we have three ambulances in the city for contagious diseases,” she said.
She also said the SPMC isolation unit had conducted reorientation on how to don their personnel protective equipment to be worn by frontline health workers in dealing with highly contagious diseases.
Both the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Ports Authority have informed her that they had been implementing tight protocol along with the BOQ to guard against the spread of the virus.
“So, when a ship arrives at the port from China, we meet
them first, we don’t immediately allow them to dock, we still check if they’re not showing any symptoms before we allow them to disembark,” she said she was told by Customs and port officials.
She said there would be increased screening and checkpoints at the Davao City Overland Transport Terminal, which would now be provided with infrared thermometers allowing authorities to detect sickness.
“Someone suggested that we buy infrared thermometers, which are cheap. We would follow that up,” she said.
The city also plans to put up tarpaulins where the public can read the DOH guidelines on what to do to protect themselves, and for the City Health Office to distribute leaflets to educate the public on the disease, and to strengthen surveillance against coronavirus in the communities.
“What’s happening is very fast, after the first case was reported on December 31, we already have nine (and now 17) deaths and hundreds of others infected. That’s why we need to respond,” Villafuerte said.
“We have to come up with a statement because the public needs to know,” she added./lzb
For more information about the novel coronavirus click here.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.