Returning Filipino from South Africa located, 7 more to be traced, says DOH

Gillan Ropero and Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2021 12:43 PM | Updated as of Dec 08 2021 01:58 PM

IATF imposes new guidelines on arriving passengers Passengers wear personal protective equipment as they line up at the Bureau of Immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport - Terminal 1 in Paranaque City on Sunday. ABS-CBN News
IATF imposes new guidelines on arriving passengers Passengers wear personal protective equipment as they line up at the Bureau of Immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport - Terminal 1 in Paranaque City on Sunday. ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE) — A Filipino traveler from South Africa, where the omicron COVID-19 variant was first detected, has been located while seven others have yet to be tracked, the Department of Health said Wednesday.

The located traveler is in home quarantine with no symptoms and has a negative RT-PCR test result, according to the DOH.

Of the total unlocated returning Filipinos, three had given the contact number of their agency and not their personal number, one had an incorrect number, another had an incomplete number, and two were uncontactable, according to the DOH. The travelers arrived between Nov. 15 and 29, it earlier said.

"We are continuously getting in touch with our local government units and other partners to be able to contact these individuals," it said.

The agency on Monday said it has located 80 travelers from South Africa, of whom 77 were returning Filipinos and there were foreign nationals. 

All of the four travelers re-tested for COVID-19, comprised of one returning Filipino and three foreign nationals, were negative, according to Health Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire.

The government appealed for cooperation from the travelers who have yet to be located.

Cabinet Secretary Carlo Nograles noted that a law penalizes people who give false information during a public health emergency. These penalties may include a fine of P20,000 to P50,000, and imprisonment of one to six months. 

Asked if the unaccounted for travelers would face these penalties, Nograles said, "I will leave it to our law enforcement agencies or our prosecutors to investigate… We’ll have to ask them questions."

"But ayoko rin silang takutin (I do not want to scare them). Whoever you are, please come immediately and report yourself, submit yourself for testing… We’re not scaring you, we want your cooperation," he said in interview on CNN Philippines. 

“Last resort na iyong sinasabi na magsampa pa ng kaso. We want everyone’s cooperation," added Nograles, who serves as President Rodrigo Duterte's acting spokesman and that of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

(The filing of cases will be a last resort.)

Video courtesy of PTV

The quarantine bureau is coordinating with the police and interior department to locate the missing travelers.

"Na-clear naman po ito ng Bureau of Quarantine. Kailangan lang po talagang i-contact para po masigurado na wala silang sintomas na naramdaman noong naka-home quarantine sila," the bureau's deputy director Dr. Roberto Salvador Jr. said in a televised public briefing 

(The Bureau of Quarantine cleared them. We just need to contact them to make sure that they had no symptoms while they were on home quarantine.) 

He noted some migrant workers have no local cellphone numbers when they return to the Philippines, and instead use the contact details of their manning agencies. 

The Philippines has yet to detect any case of omicron, which the World Health Organization classified as a "variant of concern." 

The government is monitoring all health and isolation facilities, said Nograles. 

"We are preparing them for the worst case scenario," he said. 

Nograles added that authorities are monitoring countries with spikes in COVID-19 cases for possible inclusion in the Philippine travel ban. 

"European countries, for instance, are the countries that we’re really taking a closer look at," said the official. 

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