Those unwelcome visitors from South Korea
Despite the declaration of Department of Health 7 Director Jaime Bernadas that Central Visayas is COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) free, people are still worried about the spread of the coronavirus.
The mode of transmission is human to human so that people are cautious about getting close to persons who have been to mainland China, especially from Wuhan, Hubei province the epicenter of the dreaded virus.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s issuance in February 2, 2020 of travel bans on visitors from mainland China including Macau and Hongkong have eased to some degree such apprehensions.
COVID-19, S. Korea, Shincheonji
Now comes a report that 60 countries have reported cases of COVID-19 infections and that outside of China, South Korea has the highest number of cases. Seoul has tracked 2,931 infections and 90 percent are in the outbreak center of Daegu and Cheungdo in Gyeungsung province. Sixteen people have already died.
The spread of the coronavirus in South Korea is linked to a religious cult called Shincheonji. The shadowy church has a following of 240,000 and is said to have branches in 29 countries including 19 in mainland China.
Because the coronavirus has hit epidemic proportions in South Korea, authorities are looking into the movements of the secretive sect in Northern China where many ethnic Koreans live.
Reports have it that cult members went to Wuhan in early February to attend the funeral of the brother of the church founder. Shincheonji leaders have been ordered to submit the names of members so they could be tracked down and subjected to testing protocols.
The spike in the number of coronavirus infections in South Korea and the role of the shadowy church in the spread of the virus hit international news headlines in February 21, 2020.
26 South Koreans
The arrival of 26 South Korean visitors passing through the Mactan Cebu International Airport was recorded on February 22 or a few hours after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued a travel ban on visitors coming from Daegu and Cheongdu, subject to exemptions.
Actually, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) did not immediately implement the travel ban because according to the bureau the order lacked signatures. It was only last Friday when the BI implemented the travel restriction on visitors from Daegu and Cheongdu, South Korea.
Based on a report published by GMA 7 last Friday, it was DOH Central Visayas Director Jaime Bernadas who released information about the arrival of the 26 South Korean visitors, 7 of whom came from Daegu.
Whereabouts of South Koreans
Bernadas was quoted in the news article saying they were able to trace the whereabouts of the 26 Korean visitors. The agency then instructed the hotels and the individual persons to be under strict confinement.
In other words, DOH-7 has the names of the hotels and the visitors reportedly spread out across 16 different hotels with 14 of them in Cebu City and 12 in Lapu-Lapu City.
But I guess even before the DOH official engaged the media, the whereabouts of the 26 South Korean visitors was already up in the radar of hotel employees or even the local DOH since Bernadas was quite forthright about his knowledge.
Just like the supposed secret marriage of Matteo Guidecelli and Sarah Geronimo, that kind of information cannot remain secret for long.
The sentiment of the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu, Inc. over the list-up shared on social media and the caveat that went with it is understandable because the COVID-19 is like a kiss of death for their business. To host a guest, whether asymptomatic or not, from a country where the virus is spreading fast would be a PR nightmare for any hotel or restaurant to handle.
But rather than ask the civilian police to go after netizens for posting the supposed unverified list, a job that belongs to a special unit in the PNP headquarters, it will be wise for the association to ask the management of hotels to issue a simple public advisory.
Did they or did they not accept the visitors from South Korea? And if they did, how exacting are they in enforcing DOH protocols with respect to self-quarantine? The truth will set them free.
That’s exactly what Bluewater Maribago Beach Resort did yesterday morning. They posted a public notice that the resort have no guests classified as Persons Under Observation PUO. Although the advisory made no mention of the guests from South Korea, I think the simple advisory went a long way in setting the record straight.
Inter Agency Task Force
In the meantime, it is about time that LGUs initiate convening the Inter Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the local level.
Created in 2014 by virtue of Executive Order 168 signed by then President Benigno Aquino III, the Inter Agency Task Force sought to mobilize government agencies and instrumentalities to combat the spread of SARS and MERS-COV infections that then threatened many countries all over the world.
The Inter Agency Task Force is composed of the Department of Health, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Justice, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Tourism and Department of Transportation and Communication.
There is so much at stake that it needs concerted action by LGUs, agencies and stakeholders concerned./dbs
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