MANILA - Two senators on Wednesday urged government agencies to put up "firewalls" - or stricter quarantine areas - for travelers who will test positive for the Wuhan coronavirus, a communicable illness that has killed nearly a dozen in China.
The Department of Health should implement "strict quarantine protocols" especially this month when "millions of Chinese nationals are expected to travel" to the country to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, Senate Health Committee chair Bong Go said.
"Inaasahan na milyon milyong mga Chinese ang magbibiyahe. All the more that we should safeguard our people from this potential health risk," he said, noting that 3 Chinese tourists who arrived in Kalibo exhibited symptoms of the deadly virus strain.
The health department said it was probing the case of a 5-year-old boy who traveled to Wuhan, China and had tested positive for the coronavirus.
"Hinihikayat ko na paigtingin ng DOH at DOTr ang kanilang mga scanning procedures sa lahat ng mga international airports sa bansa, lalong lalo na yung merong direct flights mula mainland China, Hong Kong at Macau," he said.
The Health department should also put up isolation wards where suspected carriers of the Wuhan virus can stay "without having to go inside the main wards" to prevent a possible outbreak, Red Cross chair and Senator Richard Gordon said in a statement.
"Every hospital, every health facility public, private or run by local governments have to put in place contingency plans for patients who are consulting for runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever," Gordon said.
"With more than half a million people also in evacuation sites in Batangas, one could imagine how a contagious virus could wreak havoc on our people who are displaced," he said, referring to Filipinos displaced by the recent eruption of the Taal Volcano.
“Let us not wait for this to go out of hand. Let us sound the alarm now and prepare for a worst case scenario."
Several airports across the Asia-Pacific have tightened security measures for travelers, especially from China after authorities said the virus - which has infected some 440 people in Asia's largest economy - could mutate and be transmitted through the respiratory tract.
Hong Kong has required passengers from Wuhan to fill out health declarations, while Thai airports subjected travelers from high-risk areas of China to mandatory thermal scans.
Airport officials in the Philippines' largest and busiest airport in the capital region have started screening passengers, while quarantine officers outside the capital manually take travelers' temperatures.
While these measure are in place, passengers should continually read about the new disease, be vigilant against its symptoms, and find ways on how to avoid spreading the virus, Go said.