Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Senate that only 17% of the 331 co-passengers of the Chinese couple who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have been contacted.
The STAR/Mong Pintolo
DOH chief grilled for slow contact tracing of nCov patient's co-passengers
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - February 4, 2020 - 3:16pm

MANILA, Philippines — Senators criticized the leadership of the Department of Health for failing to contact the rest of the co-passengers of a Chinese couple confirmed to have the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease or 2019-nCoV ARD.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told the Senate hearing that only 17% of the 331 airplane passengers who interacted with the nCoV carriers have been contacted.

Duque claimed that Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are not sharing the contact details of the passengers due to confidentiality.

Philippine Airlines denied the claims of Duque that it refuses to give the names of the passengers.

PAL Vice President for Security Gen. Cesar Ronnie Ordoyo told the Senate panel that in tandem with Cebu Pacific, the airlines have given the passenger lists to the Bureau of Epidemiology.

"As a matter of fact, we have given them the list as required because as per protocol, it would be the Bureau of Quarantine who should be following this up," Ordoyo told the Senate panel.

When asked who is in charge of contact tracing, Duque pointed his finger at DOH epidemiology bureau Ferchito Avelino for supposed lack of transparency.

"I don't know the steps, the specific measures of how this should be done and I hope that you give me a chance to look into this and I'll have it investigated," Duque told the Senate panel.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, meanwhile, suggested that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Civil Aeronautics Board should be in charge of contact tracing.

"What we have here is a glaring example of a failure to communicate," Tugade told the Senate panel.

Tugade added that the DOH does not have ascendancy nor power to force compliance among airlines to conduct contact tracing.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, blamed the DOH leadership for the low rate of contacted co-passengers of the nCoV patients in the Philippines.

"I beg to disagree that the secretary of Health is pointing his finger at his underling when there is only 17% of those passengers have been contacted since this issue erupted," Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said the issue was not just a mere failure of communication but a failure of leadership on the Health department.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson agreed with Pangilinan's sentiments, pointing out that it should have been the initiative of the DOH to contact the passengers.

"What we have here, as Sen. Pangilinan mentioned, is a failure of leadership... The DOH should be on top of the situation, not the CAAP, not the [Bureau of Immigration], or the [Department of Transportation] but the DOH," Lacson said.

Lacson stressed that the DOH should not be blaming other agencies as the 2019-nCoV threat is a health issue.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: March 28, 2020 - 6:29pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

March 28, 2020 - 6:29pm

Iran announces that 139 more people had died from the novel coronavirus, raising the official death toll to 2,517 in one of the world's worst-affected countries.

Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour says in a press conference that 3,076 more cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 35,408. — AFP

March 28, 2020 - 3:53pm

Actress Iza Calzado tested positive for the coronavirus disease, her manager says.

March 28, 2020 - 1:30pm

Toyota Makati Inc. announces that a team member tested positive for COVID-19.

"The safety and security of our employees, customers, and all of our stakeholders, is paramount to us. Keeping this in mind, and under the guidance and support of the relevant national and local authorities, we are taking immediate and comprehensive actions necessary, including disinfection of the dealership, to prevent any spread of the virus," the company says.

"Furthermore, all employees who have had close contact with the infected member have been quarantined," it adds.

March 28, 2020 - 10:43am

The United States now has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University shows.

There have been 100,717 cases including 1,544 deaths as of 6:00 pm Eastern time (2200 GMT).

The biggest cluster by far is in New York, home to almost half the cases, overwhelming the hospital system. — AFP 

March 28, 2020 - 9:08am

Manila Development Authority General Manager Jojo Garcia has tested positive for the coronavirus disease.

“I wish to inform everyone that I will have to work from home as I have been found positive for COVID-19,” Garcia says in a statement.

“I embrace this challenge with full trust and faith in God that I will overcome the same with your prayers,” he adds.

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