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Solon calls for tighter screening of arriving airport passengers

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A lawmaker from Valenzuela City urged the Department of Health or DOH as well as the Department of Transportation and Communications or DOTC to tighten the screening of arriving passengers in all international airports.


Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian issued the call as he expressed alarm on how the Ebola has already spread to countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia.


“The DOH and DOTC, which have operational control over airports, should immediately enforce tighter screening for all arriving passengers from abroad like what they are doing now in the US,” Gatchalian said.


“It is not remote that the deadly virus can also find its way to the Philippines,” he added.


There are about 12 international airports nationwide, which include the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the airports in Clark-Pampanga, Mactan-Cebu, Davao, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Laoag, Bacolod-Silay, Puerto Princesa, Subic and Zamboanga.


Gatchalian said the government should also be setting up protocols in the event that a suspected Ebola victim enters the country, while questioning the wisdom behind the plan to send Filipino nurses to Liberia, where the deadly Ebola originated.


“I think the government should act fast and should act now before the deadly Ebola virus enters our country,” the lawmaker said.


The World Health Organization reported 4,033 people have died from Ebola as of October 8 out of a total of 8,399 registered cases in seven countries.


The sharp rise in deaths came as the United Nations said aid pledges to fight the outbreak have fallen well short of the US$1 billion needed.


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted the number of cases could reach 1.4 million by January unless strong measures are taken to contain the disease. From Australia to Zimbabwe, and Macedonia to Spain, people who showed signs of fever or had recent contact with Ebola victims were whisked into isolation units or ordered to stay in their houses.


Philippine health officials had said that if the deadly Ebola virus enters the country, the local primary and secondary hospitals will have a hard time containing its spread.


According to Dr. Ludovico Jurao, president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), the infection control committees in these hospitals were not fully capable of managing such a highly contagious disease and, without the help of experts, they may even contribute to an outbreak.


Jurao had said the key to preventing Ebola from entering the country was for those who come from Ebola-hit countries in West Africa, especially returning Filipino migrant workers, to fully disclose their health condition and their whereabouts upon arrival in the Philippines. (Monica Cantilero)