CIDG starts tracking close contacts of Chinese couple with nCoV
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Police – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) on Wednesday started tracking the co-passengers of the Chinese couple from Wuhan who traveled to Cebu on Jan. 21 and tested positive for the novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD).
“The PNP Chief, in turn, has directed the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group under P/MGen Joel Napoleon Coronel to deploy tracker teams for this purpose,” Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to Gen. Archie Gamboa.
Malaya said the CIDG will be supervised by Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, deputy chief for operations of the PNP, in locating these people.
“All PNP units nationwide will also be tapped by the CIDG as may be necessary,” he added.
According to Malaya, this directive from Gamboa was in compliance with the order of Interior Secretary Eduardo Año for the police to secure the flight manifest from the airlines that accommodated the Chinese couple and begin identifying the whereabouts of those who took the same flights.
As of Tuesday, 58 of the 331 fellow passengers of the Chinese couple were already accounted for by the Department of Health. Of the 331 passengers, 140 boarded the Hong Kong-to-Cebu flight via Cebu Pacific Air, 61 were in the Cebu-to-Dumaguete City flight via CebGo, and 130 in the Dumaguete City-to-Manila flight through Philippine Airlines.
In an interview with reporters, Coronel, director of the CIDG, assured that the process of accounting for the fellow passengers of the Chinese couple will not be similar to arrests.
“Unang-una po wala pong huhulihin ang PNP sa gagawin po nating aksyon na ito (First of all, the PNP will not arrest anyone in making this action),” he said.
He said the contact tracing started after the CIDG received the list of passengers of the concerned flights at around 9 a.m. this Wednesday. The CIDG has until Friday to complete the task but this deadline will be extended if necessary.
Dr. Ferchito Avelino, DOH epidemiology bureau head, said police will contact the passengers and inquire about their medical condition in the last 14 days from the date of their flights.
He said that if they have shown symptoms of the virus infection, including cough, colds, fever, or sore throat, they will be advised to self-quarantine while awaiting authorities to transport them to a hospital to be tested.
Meanwhile, those who will not show flu-like symptoms will still be accounted for and if needed will still be visited by the police. But as of now, the priority are those showing signs of the virus, according to Coronel.
The contact tracing will be coordinated with the DOH, Police Regional Office 7 (Central Visayas), and the PNP Health Service.
The PNP Aviation Security Group, for its part, will assist the CIDG in locating those who may have already left the country, especially those who traveled with the Chinese in the Hong Kong-to-Cebu flight.
Coronel said that the police have yet to identify the number of passengers who might have already traveled in other countries despite being in contact with the Chinese couple.
He added that if the passengers refuse to cooperate with the CIDG, the police unit will notify the DOH and the local government unit concerned.
During the Senate hearing on Tuesday on the country’s capability to deal with the threat of nCoV, Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, urged Health Sec. Francisco Duque III to tap the police in locating these persons.
In that Senate hearing, senators expressed disappointment on why the contact tracing has not yet been completed.
Edited by MUF
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