PNP begins contact tracing of nCoV patients’ co-passengers

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday started the tracking and accounting of the co-passengers of the two Chinese nationals who tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV-ARD).

Earlier, Interior Secretary Eduardo AAo directed PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa to secure the flight manifest of the two confirmed nCoV cases and immediately track the whereabouts of these persons and report them immediately to health authorities.

In a press briefing, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief, Maj. Gen. Joel Coronel said 50 out of the 331 passengers who were on three flights with the two Chinese nationals were already accounted for and contacted.

Our function and task for the next 48 hours is to locate the whereabouts, status and the condition of these passengers, Coronel told reporters after his meeting with representatives from the PNP Health Service and Dr. Chito Avelino, officer-in-charge of the Department of Health's (DOH) Epidemiology Bureau.

He added that tracker teams were already deployed for this purpose.

Coronel said the Chinese couple who came from Wuhan took three flights from January 21 to 25.

Coronel said the couple arrived in Cebu from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, via Hong Kong on January 21 onboard Cebu Pacific flight 5J-241.

The couple then went to Dumaguete from Cebu on February 22 via Cebu Pacific flight DG-6519 and departed the said province going to Manila on January 25 via Philippine Airlines flight PR-2542.

We will be setting up a multi-agency task force not just only by CIDG, we are working closely with the PNP Health Service, PNP Aviation Security Group, PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group and also we'll be getting assistance from the DOH particularly in physically locating and confronting the passengers and asking them to undergo a medical information, he said.

Once the passengers are contacted, Coronel said their physical and medical condition will be determined.

The contact details of the passengers were obtained by the DOH from the airline companies, Coronel added.

He said they are tapping the Police Regional Office 7 for the contact tracing.

Coronel is hoping that the passengers would cooperate with the authorities once they will be contacted. They would even visit their respective houses, if necessary.

If the passengers refuse to cooperate, Coronel said it would be up to the DOH officials to act on it.

"In case they will not [cooperate] then probably through the help of the LGU (local government unit) or DOH then we can compel them to go with us, of course citing risk to public health and safety," Coronel said.

Coronel added that with the help of the Bureau of Immigration, they would find out if some of the passengers have left the country.

Meanwhile, Avelino said the concerned passengers will be asked about their conditions within 14 days or if they have had symptoms of nCoV.

The authorities would ask who had been the people they had contact with.

Avelino said they will first contact the identified passengers through the provided contact numbers and email address and ask them about their health condition since they arrived in the country.

If they have symptoms like cough, colds or fever during that period of time, we will advise them to stay in a room and our DOH regional epidemiology and surveillance unit will find a way to transport them to the hospital so we can get a specimen from them for laboratory work, he added.

The family or the people who mingled with the person who underwent examination may also be subjected for testing depending on the result of the examination.

On Wednesday, the DOH confirmed that a 60-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in Cebu City from Wuhan, China on January 20, is the third nCoV case in the country.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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