DAVAO CITY—Despite the travel ban on tourists from countries with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), visitors are still able to sneak into some popular destinations in Mindanao without going through the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
But while the Department of Health (DOH) only imposed the quarantine on persons who showed flu-like symptoms after arriving at the airport, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and local officials put their foot down and ordered mandatory isolation.
According to Annabelle Yumang, DOH regional director in southern Mindanao, not all visitors, even if they come from countries with confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV, go through the 14-day quarantine.
She said only those who showed flu-like symptoms upon arrival at the airport could be taken to a designated isolation area while those who did not show the symptoms were merely regarded as “persons under monitoring” and were allowed to visit any part of the country.
This explained why four Chinese tourists, who did not show any symptoms, were able to enter the country, spend three days in this city and visit Glan town, Sarangani province, without going through the 14-day quarantine.
Although the tourists were later taken by Sarangani authorities for the 14-day isolation, they went through the thermal scanner tests and did not exhibit any flu-like symptoms when they arrived here from Clark in Pampanga province.
Yumang said the DOH could not just stop tourists who showed no flu-like symptoms from entering the country. “At the DOH, we have the decision-making tool,” she said. “We’re trying to use that tool so that it would not be unfair to those affected.”
“But once they start to feel the symptoms, they are immediately asked to go to the nearest health center, and if they’re more comfortable, to the nearest hospital,” she added.
The DILG has directed local governments to isolate for 14 days all returning Filipino workers and visitors coming from countries with confirmed 2019-nCoV cases, and have their swabs taken for testing.
4 isolated in SaranganiIn Sarangani, authorities quarantined four Chinese tourists from Fujian who spent days at a beach resort in Glan. Sarangani health officer, Dr. Arvin Alejando, said the Chinese would be isolated until Feb. 20, after which they would be allowed to depart if they would not show any symptoms of the virus.
In Naawan town, Misamis Oriental province, a Filipino worker who arrived from Hong Kong on Feb. 3 had spent a day in her home and had entertained neighbors and relatives before she was taken by local authorities for a 14-day isolation.
She was able to go through the airport and was allowed to go straight home because she did not show any symptoms of the 2019-nCoV.
In Aklan province, Chinese tourists still visiting Boracay Island may have entered the country before the travel restrictions covering China were implemented, according to aviation and immigration authorities.
Eric Apolonio, spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said all direct flights from Hong Kong and mainland China to Kalibo and Iloilo international airports had been suspended since Feb. 2. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.
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