How the OFWs repatriated from Wuhan, China were screened and quarantined
A mother (L) of a child (R) held by his father (C) adjust his protective mask to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in Wuhan peaks through a plastic curtain at the Beijing railway station in Beijing on January 27, 2020. China on January 27 extended its biggest national holiday to buy time in the fight against a viral epidemic and neighbouring Mongolia closed its border, after the death toll spiked to 81 despite unprecedented quarantine measures.
AFP/Nicolas Asfouri

How the OFWs repatriated from Wuhan, China were screened and quarantined

Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - February 10, 2020 - 4:37pm

MANILA, Philippines — The repatriation flight carrying 30 Filipinos from Wuhan, the city of origin of the novel coronavirus 2019 nCoV, arrived in the Philippines on Sunday morning and brought to the Athlete's Village at the New Clark City.

Amid concerns that the repatriated overseas Filipino workers could contribute to the spread of the virus, the Department of Health assured the public on Monday that none of those quarantined showed any symptoms. 

“Yung lahat ng pumunta sa airport wala silang tinurn away na kahit isang Filipino dahil lahat ng dumating ay malusog, walang lagnat,” Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in an interview on radio dzMM Monday.  

“During the flight na tatlong oras, chini-check sila walang na-develop na kahit anong symptoms hanggang makababa sila dito sa Clark.”

READ: Repatriation flight from Wuhan back in Philippines

(No Filipino was turned away in [Wuhan] airport because all repatriates were healthy, they have no fever. They were checked during the three-hour flight. No one developed any symptoms until they arrived at Clark International Airport.)

Screening, quarantine precautionary measures

According to the Health department, 49 persons are now under quarantine at the site, including the flight's crew and passengers of 29 adults and an infant.

Here are the initiatives and updates presented by government agencies at the Laging Handa briefing attended by Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella and Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya on Monday morning.  

  • Repatriated OFWs from Wuhan were screened thrice during the entire repatriation process, first before their boarding, and later during flight itself, and finally upon landing. 
  • The OFWs, who are considered as persons under monitoring, will be subject to medical assessments for the duration of the quarantine
  • The quarantine will last 14 days, which is how long the novel coronavirus takes to incubate and show symptoms
  • Persons under monitoring will be checked twice a day, scheduled once at 9 a.m. and later at 4 p.m., to check for changes in their health status and for respiratory symptoms including fever, cough and colds, which have been linked to the novel coronavirus by the World Health Organization
  • An ambulance has been put on standby in the area in the event that any of those under quarantine reports symptoms and will need to be isolated 
  • Psychosocial services, including exercises, will be provided to those under isolation 
  • Persons who are observed to develop respiratory symptoms will be immediately brought to designated hospitals 
  • Food and toiletries will be provided to those quarantined 

Malaya also bared a number of procedures and precautionary measures that he said were specifically geared towards protecting the citizens in nearby localities, who have expressed concern over living within distance from quarantined patients. These measures include:

  • The PNP has been tasked by the DILG to secure the perimeter of the New Clark City, which Malaya asserted was far from the major population centers of Tarlac and Pampanga
  • The movement of the quarantined citizens will be limited to the quarantine building only, which will be "secured 24/7" by the Health department
  • The quarantine itself was a precautionary measure as all 30 persons under quarantine were asymptomatic or showing no symptoms 
  • There is no evidence that the nCoV can be transferred through flies or insects
  • Only DOH personnel are given access to the quarantine building 
  • Local government units have been urged to strengthen information campaigns on proper hygiene, coughing and handwashing etiquette 
  • All LGUs have organized local task forces in dealing with the novel coronavirus scare 
  • On-site personnel have also set up a medical office at the building and have written medical profiles for each patient 
  • N95 masks, hazmat suits and other supplies that were "good for a month" have been deployed and are concentrated in medical centers with confirmed cases. 

"What we're doing is showing them that there's no risk for the community. This community is very, very far. Talagang wala namang way na ma-expose ang anybody. Wala pa naman at this time any plan for a second repatriation," Domingo said at a later briefing. 

'Decision to quarantine not consulted with locals'

Farmers said the government's decision to quarantine repatriated OFWs at the New Clark City Athletic Village in Tarlac was not consulted with local constituents.

"The government must ensure the health of the repatriated OFWs as well as the communities near the quarantine area," Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement on Sunday.

"The worries and concerns of community residents should be addressed and alleviated by local officials."

For their part, Moro and indigenous people's alliance Sandugo told Philstar.com on Sunday in an online exchange that, "Hindi po consulted ang mga Aeta sa mismong pagtatayo ng buong New Clark City. Hindi po sila kinilala na may ancestral land claim sila doon. Pinaalis din sila sa Phase 1 New Clark City, kasama ang mga farmers doon." 

(Aeta tribes weren't consulted about the building of the New Clark City to begin with. Their claim over their ancestral land there is not recognized.)

Both farmers and Aeta tribes live and maintain their farms within the New Clark City. 

The DILG said at the briefing that no LGU approval was needed to convert the Athlete's Village into a quarantine area. 

RELATED: No Aeta eviction after 7-day notice, but checkpoint put up — IP watchdog

First confirmed case negative for 2019 nCoV

In an earlier press conference, the DOH said that because the confirmed cases came from Wuhan, there was still "zero local transmission" in the Philippines. 

"In the Philippines, all of the cases are now still imported," Domingo emphasized at Wednesday's briefing. 

Furthermore, the woman who was the first confirmed case in the country of 2019-nCoV has tested negative twice and has been discharged on Saturday after her last test on Friday.

The department was no longer able to report on her whereabouts after she was discharged, and it is unknown if she returned to China or has remained in the country.

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