TRACING people who had close contact with the three persons in the country who were confirmed to be infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is literally like looking for a needle in the haystack. Locating them will be extremely difficult. In fact, many of them have not been found so they can be placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine in a government facility or be put in a home quarantine.
Department of Health (DOH) 7 Director Dr. Jaime Bernadas said that after 72 hours, it is no longer contact tracing but monitoring. But whom will the agency monitor when almost all of them have not been located?
The Philippine National Police (PNP), upon the request of DOH officials, has joined the manhunt to locate and force these people to be placed under quarantine, especially if they display symptoms of the virus. The plane that carried the 38-year-old Chinese woman, who was the first to be confirmed of being infected with the virus, along with her 44-year-old partner last Jan. 21, 2020 also had 331 other passengers. Only 50 have been identified and located.
Her partner died a week ago at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila. He was known to be the first fatality of the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease (ARD) in the country and the first fatality outside of mainland China.
So, where are the couple’s fellow passengers who took the flight from Hong Kong to Cebu on Cebu Pacific (CebuPac) flight SJ-241?
Upon arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the couple transferred to the domestic airport and boarded another plane for Dumaguete on board CebuPac flight DG-6519.
What about the people they interacted with at the airport, especially the immigration and customs personnel who inspected them? Or their fellow passengers going to Dumaguete? Or the people they interacted with at the Dumaguete airport? Or the van driver who brought them to the hotel where they checked in and the hotel front desk personnel and hotel’s room attendants? What about the next hotel guests who occupied their room? Was the room they occupied disinfected and the bedding and everything else inside burned?
The couple went to a beach resort in Dauin, a municipality close to Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental. What about the people they had close contact with at the resort?
The couple took a flight from Dumaguete to Manila on board Philippines Airlines PR 2542 last Jan. 25. There in Manila, they showed signs of the coronavirus. What about their fellow passengers and the plane’s personnel on that flight? What about the medical personnel who took care of them at the hospital? Were these people identified and quarantined already?
Then, there is the 60-year-old Chinese female who was the third confirmed case. She took a flight last Jan. 22 from Hong Kong to Cebu. The airline, CebuPac, continues to have a hard time locating the other passengers.
She then went to Bohol on board a fastcraft. What about her fellow passengers in the fastcraft? Or the people she met at the pier area in Cebu and in Tagbiliran City? How about the personnel of the hotel where she checked in and the hospital staff who attended to her when she was confined in a private hospital in Tagbilaran City? One of the nurse showed symptoms of the virus and has been isolated.
I read an advisory from Bohol health officials posted on Facebook asking the patient’s fellow passengers at the fastcraft to coordinate with health officials in Bohol if they experience flu-like symptoms.
“To all passengers on board Oceanjet 5:45 pm trip last Jan. 20, 2020 from Cebu to Tagbilaran City, you are advised to seek medical help/checkup if you are not feeling well and started to feel ill between Jan. 20 and Feb. 3 during the 14-day incubation period. Please coordinate with Dr. Yul Lopez or contact Tarsier 117,” the advisory said.
But do you think they will voluntarily “surrender?” I doubt it. They are thinking of the stigma they’ll face if they surface. Some people can be judgmental. Imagine for those people, if they are identified and located, they will be forced to undergo quarantine. For 14 days, their movements will be restricted, far away from their friends and relatives.
So there is a possibility then that persons who are already infected are roaming around Cebu or Bohol or Negros Oriental, undetected by health authorities.
Can we combat the virus if these people don’t cooperate? What will we do with them? Kill them like what some others are saying to prevent the virus from further spreading?