SOME 24 crewmembers of ships operated by the government mapping agency, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria), have been found infected with the new coronavirus and were transferred onshore to an isolation facility in Subic Freeport.
According to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which monitors Covid-19 cases in this freeport, the infected crewmen came from the four Namria vessels that were vbased in the Subic Bay Freeport.
Wilma Eisma, chairman and administrator, said the positive cases were shuttled by the SBMA Covid-19 team on Wednesday night, April 14, 2021, to the Manila Times temporary treatment and monitoring facility (TTMF) at Subic’s Cubi area, which had just opened for operation that morning.
“We have taken every precaution to prevent further transmission among the crewmen, as well as personnel in the Port of Subic,” said Eisma on Friday.
“I’ve ordered a 'gangway up' status for all the NAMRIA ships, which means that all the remaining crew would have to stay onboard and cannot come onshore except for emergency,” the SBMA chairman said.
She said that SBMA health officials, as well as port authorities, have already completed contact tracing and put in place safeguards to ensure the observance of Covid-19 protocols and other health safety measures were imposed in Subic.
“The vessel commanders have been very cooperative thus far—with the SBMA, as well as the Bureau of Quarantine and the Philippine Coast Guard, so we’re positive that this health issue would be resolved soon,” Eisma said.
According to Dr. Solomon Jacalne, head of the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department, a total of 18 crewmembers of BRP Hydrographer Presbiterio had contracted the novel coronavirus. Four other positive cases were recorded aboard BRP Hydrographer Hizon, one on BRP Hydrographer Palma and another on BRP Hydrographer Ventura.
The Namria, which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, provides mapmaking services and acts as the government’s central mapping agency. It started basing its vessels here in 2015 after BRPH Hizon and BRPH Palma were commissioned here on June 1 that year.
Jacalne said the infection among Namria crewmen was traced to a crewman of BRP Ventura, who returned for duty on April 5 after some time off in Antipolo City. Antipolo, along with other areas in the so-called “NCR Plus bubble,” is still under the modified enhanced community quarantine status.
Jacalne said on April 8, said crewmember underwent a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test and came out positive, prompting the lockdown of all vessels for quarantine even as the ship crew did not show any Covid-19 symptoms.
When one crew member developed hypertension on April 12, he was brought to a hospital and RT-PCR testing was required. A saliva RT-PCR was then approved for the crew.
Jacalne said subsequent results on April 13 showed that out of the 75 crewmen, 22 were positive. Another positive case came up on April 15 from the two pending results of the April 12 saliva test.
It can be recalled that a crew member of BRPH Palma became the first Covid-19 case recorded in the Subic Freeport at the onset of the pandemic last year. Said crewman tested positive on March 29, 2020, after visiting Mindoro on March 6 and falling ill upon his return to Subic three days later. (Ric Sapnu)