MANILA—Dozens of passengers on the same flights as two Chinese citizens found positive for the novel coronavirus in the Philippines could not be reached, a law enforcement agency tasked to locate the travelers at risk of infection said Saturday.
Police Col. Rhoderick Armamento of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group said his group was only able to track down 102 out of 191 passengers of two flights that the Chinese nationals had taken on Jan. 21.
" 'Yong iba na hindi namin na-contact ay tinext na lang namin. Some of them indeed replied to our queries," he told ANC's "Dateline."
(We sent text messages to those we couldn't contact. Some of them indeed replied to our queries.)
"Unfortunately, meron hindi rin namin na-contact because for some reasons 'yong iba do'n hindi nagri-ring. Assumption namin is mali 'yong number na naibigay and talagang out of reach lang siya," added Armamento, CIDG's deputy director for operations.
(Unfortunately, we couldn't reach the others because for some reason their phone wouldn't ring. We assumed they have given a wrong number or they're just out of reach.)
The CIDG was tasked to complete the "contact tracing" or locate the passengers onboard Philippine Airlines' Dumaguete to Manila flight and Cebu Pacific's Cebu to Dumaguete flight.
On both flights, they located 35 out of 61 Cebu Pacific passengers and 67 out of 130 Philippine Airlines passengers as of Saturday midnight, Armamento said. They have been put under house quarantine.
Some 6 passengers, 3 from each flight, are also being monitored by health authorities after exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
As they are still only halfway through contact tracing, the CIDG is also using social media to locate the travelers.
"We are in constant coordination with immigration, number 1. Number 2, 'yong aming Anti-Cybercrime Group, we even resorted to reaching them out through electronic means, Viber, even Facebook, chat and other means of communications," Armamento said.
The two Chinese nationals, the first 2 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Philippines, arrived in Cebu via Hong Kong on Jan. 21. They came from Wuhan, the central city at the heart of China's coronavirus crisis.
One of them — a 44-year-old man — died on Feb. 1 from severe pneumonia. It was the first recorded nCoV-related death outside China.
A 66-year-old woman, who also came from Wuhan, contracted the novel virus, making her the country's third confirmed infection.
As of Friday, the Philippines said it was monitoring 212 patients suspected of carrying the strain, which manifests as fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties.
Of the number, 184 are currently admitted in hospitals, 9 have refused admission, 17 were discharged but under strict monitoring and 2 had died of other causes, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
In China, the virus has killed at least 722 people and infected nearly 35,000 others as of Saturday.