Gov’t scales up COVID screening, surveillance in country’s ports of entry

Published July 10, 2020, 11:21 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is scaling up its screening and surveillance strategies in the country’s ports of entry, including the hiring of more contact tracers and the establishment of one-stop shops to process arriving passengers that will help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN)

Subic and other ports will also be assigned as dedicated hubs for international crew change subject to health protocols as a precaution against the outbreak, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) said in a latest resolution.

“Due to the developments in the situation of the COVID-19 in the country, further amendments are required to further streamline the government’s response to the pandemic,” IATF’s Resolution No. 53 read.

The task force held a virtual meeting last Thursday and adopted the recommendations made by the National Task Force for Coronavirus Disease 2019 on further strengthening screening and surveillance activities in the country.

According to presidential spokesman Harry Roque, the NTF has supported the efforts of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to hire more civilians who will serve as additional personnel for contract tracing and swabbing in ports of entry.

He said health protocols and guidelines must strictly be observed in Subic and other ports that will facilitate crew changes.

“Also approved is the establishment of one-stop shops under the DOTr to uniformly process arrivals in all gateways,” Roque said.

The IATF has also adopted the inbound flight crew protocols enforced by the International Civil Aviation Organization for inbound flight crew.

The transportation department, including its attached agencies such as Civil Aeronautics Board and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, have also been directed to issue the guidelines. “Inbound flight crew must remain in their accommodation establishments upon arrival to avoid transmission,” the IATF resolution read.

As of July 9, the country has recorded 51,754 cases of coronavirus with 12,813 recoveries, and 1,314 deaths.

The country is largely under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), a more relaxed lockdown level to facilitate the gradual opening of the economy.

Cebu City remains under the strict enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) while Metro Manila is under general community quarantine (GCQ) until July 15. Other areas under GCQ are Benguet, Cavite, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Leyte, Ormoc, Southern Leyte, Talisay City, and the municipalities of Minglanilla and Consolacion in Cebu.

President Duterte recently said the country must be “circumspect” in the gradual opening of the economy to avoid a rapid surge of coronavirus infections.