By Emme Rose Santiagudo
At least 2,000 tourists in Boracay Island, mostly Chinese nationals, are being watched by health authorities amid the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) acute respiratory disease outbreak.
Catherine Fulgencio, head of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Malay, Aklan, said the 2,000 tourists in the island are considered as persons under monitoring (PUMs) or patients with no symptoms but with histories of travel to China including Hong Kong and Macau and may have possible exposure to a positive case.
“Most of the 2,000 tourists are Chinese nationals who are currently staying in the different hotels and establishments in Boracay,” Fulgencio said in an interview on Tuesday.
Fulgencio said the tourists arrived on the island through the Kalibo International Airport before the flight cancellations and temporary travel ban imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Dr. Marlyn Convocar, Department of Health Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD)-6 regional director, confirmed the information.
Convocar said that around 5,400 tourists were able to enter Aklan from January 21 before the announcement of flight cancellations and temporary travel ban on February 2, 2020.
“Due to the canceled flights and travel ban, 2,000 tourists remained on the island,” she said.
Both Convocar and Fulgencio expressed concerns on how to monitor the 2,000 PUMs and trace the numerous establishments they visited in Boracay.
“We are having a hard time kay damo sila nga establishments na gina-estiran so ang pag-monitor sa ila indi ma-centralize,” Fulgencio said.
Looking for a quarantine area to house the 2,000 tourists is also another problem, especially that PUMs must undergo a 14-day quarantine period, Convocar added.
“Dako ang problema kay papano mo na imonitor ang 14 days,” she said.
On Tuesday, member stakeholders from all over the region met for the Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment (PDRA) meeting of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) 6 to discuss preparations and measures against n-CoV.
Galo Ibardolaza, Aklan provincial DRRMO head, said the provincial government of Aklan will seek advice from Malacañang on how to handle the thousands of PUMs.
“The provincial government and the task force agreed that we need to seek advice from the national agencies on how to manage these 2,000 PUMs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Convocar said they are also planning to hire additional health personnel to be deployed to Aklan.
Fulgencio underscored the need for cooperation of business establishments in Boracay to help monitor the PUMs.
“Sana may one-stop-shop sa mga establishments para yung mga safety officers and medical team ng establishments para may daily na situational report kung meron bang symptoms para mabilis ang pag-monitor,” she said.
From PUMs, Fulgencio explained that the tourists can be classified as persons under investigation (PUI) or those with symptoms and history of travel to China, Hong Kong, and Macau; and may have possible exposure to a positive case.
As of February 4, 2020, DOH confirmed that 105 people in the country are under investigation for possible novel coronavirus infection including two confirmed cases.
Of the 105 persons under investigation, ten are from Western Visayas.