AT PRESENT, two Chinese carriers are operating flights between Davao City and Chinese cities -- Cathay Dragon, which operates the Hong Kong-Davao-Hong Kong route, and Xiamen Air, which operates Quanzhou (Jinjiang)-Davao-Quanzhou.

With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Dabawenyos have expressed worry over the continuous operation of flights between Davao City and the two Chinese cities.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) January 29 situation report on the 2019-nCoV, 6,065 individuals have been infected by the virus. In China, there are 132 deaths, 5,997 confirmed cases, and 9,239 suspected cases.

In Department of Health’s (DOH) situation report as of 12 noon of January 29, there are 23 persons under investigation (PUI) in the Philippines with one being in Davao Region.

Also, in an interview with Davao City Health Office (CHO) Gene Gulanes, seven individuals submitted themselves to hospitals in the city after manifesting flu-like symptoms. However, three have already been discharged.

“Kung i-base nato sa nCoV (symptom) nga gi-set sa WHO (World Health Organization), layo ra tungod isa lang ang symptom nga nag-manifest. The rest dili na (If we would base it on the guidelines set by the WHO on determining whether the patient has nCoV or not, it did not met the requirement as it only manifested one symptom),” he said.

The other four is a Chinese family, which are reportedly rushed to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) on Wednesday, January 29, for verification. Gulanes said they are “persons under investigation” and are continuously being monitored.

In response to the recent developments in 2019-nCoV, the Island Garden City of Samal has suspended tours on the island as a safety precaution.

Following the revelations from DOH and CHO, Dabawenyos have been clamoring to stop flights between Davao City and Chinese cities. However, the city government has yet to issue a statement on the matter.

In an Associated Press report yesterday, British Airways halted all flights to China while American Airlines suspended Los Angeles flights to and from Shanghai and Beijing. The report added, Air India and South Korean budget carrier Seoul Air are also halting all flights to the country, and Indonesia’s Lion Air plans to do the same. Other carriers including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are slashing service.

The DOH stated that there is no need yet to stop the entry of Chinese nationals to the country or limit flights between China and Davao. However, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has ordered the suspension of visa upon arrival (VUA) facility for Chinese nationals.

As puzzling as it sounds, DOH’s decision may have been based on the current travel advisory of WHO.

“With the information currently available for the novel coronavirus, WHO advises that measures to limit the risk of exportation or importation of the disease should be implemented, without unnecessary restrictions of international traffic,” WHO said in its January 27 advisory.

However, with the rate of how the disease is spreading and the level of worry Filipinos are expressing online, the government might want to consider limiting flights between the country and Chinese cities.

Limiting or the stopping of flights to and from China may greatly impact the local economy but it is important that we ensure the safety of the Filipinos first.