Acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles on Wednesday, Dec. 8, asked the eight passengers who arrived in the country from South Africa to “please come (forward) immediately.”
South Africa is the country from where the reportedly highly transmissible Omicron variant was first detected more than two weeks ago. It is included in the red list of countries on which the Philippines imposed a travel ban.
Nograles noted that there are penalties involved when giving false information to immigration upon arrival, especially under the Notifiable Diseases Act that prescribes the procedures on surveillance and response during pandemics and public health concerns.
The COVID-19 pandemic falls under Republic Act No. 11332, or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
“Ayoko ko rin silang takutin (I don’t want to scare them). Whoever you are please come (forward) immediately and report, submit yourselves for testing to authorities,” he said on CNN’s The Source.
“We are not scaring you. We want your cooperation. Last resort na ‘yung magsampa pa ng kaso (to file a case). We want everyone’s cooperation,” the official added.
Under the said Act, the penalty for “intentionally providing misinformation” and “non-cooperation of persons or entities that should report and/or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern” will be penalized with a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000.
Those found guilty can also face imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment depending on the court.
“Nakalagay po diyan ‘yung (It is indicated there the) penalties for anyone who gave false information especially during a public health emergency like this ongoing pandemic of COVID-19,” Nograles added.
He said that he will leave the investigation or prosecution of the individuals on law enforcement agencies, but stressed that the agencies will investigate first before filing any case.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported on Wednesday that they found one out of the eight missing travelers from South Africa who were part of the 253 individuals who arrived on Nov. 15 to 29.
Of the 253 travelers, 80 had been verified and located, eight have been verified but only one of them was located, and 165 are still being verified.
Four of the 80 travelers located have already been retested for COVID-19 and yielded negative results. The remaining 76 have not been tested.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to issue a definitive report on whether Omicron is more transmissible than other variants, including the currently dominant one, Delta.
It, however, said that new variants of the coronavirus are usually more transmissible because it has to compete with existing variants.
If anything, preliminary studies showed that Omicron is not causing more severe infections than Delta or other past variants.