CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, PAMPANGA — Safety measures have been tightened in the country’s transportation hubs as the country recorded its first case of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Thursday (Jan. 30).
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said that the DOTr and its attached agencies have been implementing its safety protocols at the country’s gateways as early as 23 Jan. 2020, or just after China reported the discovery of the 2019-nCoV in Wuhan City.
“We have adopted measures we deem necessary to secure our transportation hubs even before the first case was recorded in the country. This development will further strengthen our resolve to reinforce our safety measures and protocols in various transport terminals, in coordination with other concerned government agencies,” said Secretary Tugade.
Tugade said the DOTr is closely coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Bureau of Quarantine to support its efforts to secure transport terminals from the 2019-nCoV and in closely monitoring arriving passengers.
For its part, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has reactivated its communicable disease preparedness procedures on all CAAP-operated airports, especially in international gateways such as Puerto Princesa, General Santos, Zamboanga, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, and Iloilo in a bid to contain the spread into the country of the novel coronavirus.
Airport frontline personnel have been advised to observe precautionary measures such as maintaining proper hygiene, and regular handwashing, and to exercise extreme vigilance in handling passenger arrivals and strictly monitor those who are possibly infected by the virus.
Posting of public advisories informing about coronavirus infections are also being enforced.
For operations at the country’s main gateway, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said they are in full coordination with the Bureau of Quarantine in support of their safety protocols.
A dedicated lane with writing desks at the arrival concourse for quarantine thermal screening of arriving passengers was also set-up.
On 23 January 2020, the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) resolved to immediately and indefinitely suspend all air services operations between Wuhan and any point in the Philippines. Kalibo in Aklan is the only point in the Philippines that directly connects to Wuhan by way of chartered flights.
All air carriers regardless of the route serviced as long as the origin or destination is in China, were also required to closely monitor the events that might transpire in other Chinese cities as well as other countries, and to take all precautions to ensure the protection of health and safety of passengers.
CAB likewise directed all pertinent air carriers to immediately secure from the Bureau of Quarantine copies of the Health Declaration Checklist and ensure that all passengers and members of the aircrew answer it prior to disembarkation.
The CAB stressed the importance of the checklist in assisting the Bureau of Quarantine in tracking down passengers later on shown to be infected by or exposed to the novel coronavirus.
All area centers and airports, especially those with international flights, were ordered to immediately review and update their respective Airport Emergency Plans to address public health threats such as the novel coronavirus in coordination with the local Quarantine Health Office.
In the Maritime sector, directives have been given out to all ports operated by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to coordinate with the quarantine office and implement strict passenger screening at arrival areas. According to PPA General Manager Jay Santiago, stringent security measures are also in place especially in areas frequently visited by tourists such as Bohol and Caticlan in Aklan. Face masks and sanitizers were likewise distributed to frontline employees.
The Philippine Coast Guard has likewise advised all medical units in its 13 Coast Guard Districts to be on high alert to block the possible spread of suspected coronavirus.
Strict passenger screening and safety measures are also in place on the country’s land terminals and railway networks to prevent the entry and spread of the virus.
Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-005 mandating all public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and conductors to properly wear face masks at all times while on duty and for all franchise holders to ensure compliance. All terminal operators were likewise directed to ensure proper sanitation and cleanliness in their premises— to provide face masks as well as disinfectants or sanitizers for the free use of passengers.
For its part, the DOTr railways sector instructed all frontline station and security personnel of railway lines to wear appropriate face masks and to ensure that hand sanitizers and soaps are available for use in restrooms and other strategic areas inside stations.
Train interiors and station premises, particularly frequently touched surfaces that are exposed to the public, were likewise ordered to be disinfected.
Periodic announcements of reminders for preventive actions that could help prevent transmission of the virus were also directed for posting in strategic locations.
Secretary Tugade repeated his appeal for cooperation from commuters, especially those who may feel inconvenienced by the strict safety measures being implemented.
“As we implement preventive measures and stringent monitoring of passengers in our transportation hubs nationwide, we implore the public to cooperate with the authority and also be vigilant in their travels at all times,” Secretary Tugade said. (RONDA BALITA Online)