PH peacekeeper with malaria to remain in quarantine despite Ebola negative test
MANILA, Philippines — The Filipino peacekeeper who fell ill with fever will remain in quarantine despite testing negative for the Ebola virus, according to Malacañang.
The peacekeeper will still join 132 others now staying on Caballo island as a precautionary measure to ensure none of them was afflicted with Ebola after their tour of duty in Liberia.
“He will remain in that situation,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said over government radio.
The peacekeeper was moved to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City after developing a fever on his second day of quarantine. But he was later diagnosed with malaria, which he might have gotten in Liberia, said acting Health Secretary Janette Garin.
Citing information from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Coloma said the peacekeepers would eventually meet their relatives during a “heroes’ welcome” in Malacañang set for the first week of December.
But he said that “the appropriate event to recognize the Filipino peacekeepers from Liberia is still subject to approval and confirmation by the Office of the President.”
“The government thanks the relatives of the Filipino peacekeepers who returned from Liberia for their understanding and their continued support for the quarantine,” he said.
Coloma denied that the government has been limiting communication between the quarantined peacekeepers and their relatives.
Those who do not own cell phones could use the unit provided for them, but Coloma said they have been required to follow a “time limit for the benefit of everybody.”
Coloma said the group has also been provided with free Wi-Fi access and unlimited texting, courtesy of Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.
“The government wants to make their stay on Caballo island comfortable,” he said.
Malacañang earlier asked the public not to fall for false information, such as the one that the peacekeeper who had gone down with fever was sick with Ebola.
Garin said the peacekeeper was undergoing “combination treatment” for malaria, which was diagnosed “in the early stage so there’s no complication.”
He will be sent back to the island to complete the quarantine once he fully recovers from malaria.
On Sunday, military and health officials visited the island to check on the soldiers and to assure the public that the country has remained free of the Ebola virus.
Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the Peacekeeping Operations Center of the AFP, said all the remaining 137 peacekeepers on the island have been found well.
“We want to allay the public’s fears and to assure the soldiers. We want to show that the Ebola virus is not airborne. It is transmitted through contact,” the official said of the visit.
Ancan said the visiting officials, himself included, did not wear any protective equipment while interacting with the peacekeepers, sans the handshake.
Among the military officials who visited Caballo island were AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang and the AFP public affairs office chief, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc.
“There is no reason for people to worry. The peacekeepers are in good condition and safe here,” Ancan said.
The members of the 18th Philippine Contingent to Liberia, of which 108 are soldiers, 29 are policemen and one a jail officer, arrived in the country last Wednesday after a year-long tour of duty in the Ebola-stricken country.
They were placed under a 21-day quarantine on the island, a Philippine Navy facility. Before their return to the country, all the peacekeepers tested negative for the Ebola virus and had no contact with Ebola patients.
The military officials and the Department of Health head conducted a dialogue with the troops on Sunday to assure them that they were not being shunned and that there was no cause for alarm.
“We want to make them feel that they are not being shunned. They clapped loudly during the dialogue,” Ancan said.
Capt. Luzviminda Camacho, commander of Joint Task Group Liberia, said the rest of the peacekeepers tested negative for malaria.
Cabunoc said the visit was the first visit of Catapang and acting Health Secretary Janet Garin to the island after the peacekeepers arrived last week.
In his Instagram account, Cabunoc posted a photograph of the peacekeepers cleaning the surroundings of their billeting area as part of their daily routine.
The quarantine period ends on Dec. 3.
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