Following the directive of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) Top Management to adopt stringent prevention measures against the deadly Novel Coronavirus (nCoV), the ports under the jurisdiction of the Port Management Office of Misamis Oriental/Cagayan de Oro, have doubled the measures to help prevent the virus from entering the country through ports.

Since the onset of the outbreak in China, the PMO has initiated the provision of face masks to all its frontline personnel and advised them to practice frequent handwashing. Infomercial videos and tarpaulins on basic information about the coronavirus (cause/s, signs, and symptoms, preventions) were also being shown and posted at the new Passenger Terminal Building and the Assessment, Billing, Cashier Unit (ABCU) of the Baseport, and in the Terminal Ports of Balingoan and Camiguin. With the declaration of 2019-nCoV as a global emergency by the World Health Organization and the recent confirmed case of nCoV in the country, the PMO has stepped up its preventive measures especially that its ports, particularly the Port of Cagayan de Oro, has high passenger traffic daily. The PMO has acquired temperature guns that measure body temperatures of seagoing passengers and has provided alcohol and sanitizers in conspicuous places around the passenger terminal buildings and offices.

Furthermore, the PMO’s Port Police Division issued new Advisory/Bulletin/Announcement (PABA)’s on supplemental guidelines on the containment and neutralization of the spread of nCoV, in addition to its first PABA issuance on 23 January 2020, “Institution of measures re Prevention of the Spread of Coronavirus,” that enjoined the cargo handling operators, shipping lines and all other port stakeholders.

Adoption of strict preventive measures

In compliance to the directives of President Rodrigo R. Duterte forwarded by PPA to all ports through Port Operations Bulletin/Advisory and PPA Memorandum No. 01-2020, “Implementation in the Seaports of the Presidential Directive for the Management of the 2019 Novel Corona Virus Acute Respiratory Disease Situation”, and the Bureau of Quarantine-Department of Health (BOQ-DOH)’s Interim Guidelines on measures for 2019-nCoV for seaports, the following are to be adopted by the ports under the PMO MO/C’s jurisdiction in close coordination with BOQ-DOH and other agencies, among others:

  • Temporarily banning entry of any person, regardless of nationality, except Filipino citizens and holders of Permanent Resident Visa issued by the Philippine Government, directly coming from or within fourteen (14) days immediately preceding arrival in the Philippines, has been to China and its Special Administrative Regions;
  • Establishment of a repatriation and quarantine facility;
  • No disembarkation of the crew from vessels coming from affected ports/countries;
  • For ship operators to declare all flu-like and pneumonia symptoms and all the ports of disembarkation in the last two weeks in China;
  • For port operators to limit close contact with vessel crew of vessel from the affected country;
  • Strict handling of waste disposal of the vessel; and
  • Practice respiratory hygiene (cough etiquette)

PPA has also canceled all visitation privileges of the relatives of Filipino seafarers to board and the boarding privileges of non-government organizations extending emotional and spiritual help to seafarers.

Briefing by the DOH

The Bureau of Quarantine-Department of Health Region 10 conducted a briefing relative to the subject virus before the PMO personnel and representatives of shipping lines, cargo handling operator, and security provider, on 03 February 2020 in the PMO GAD Hall, Administrative Building 2.

Dr. Logencito P. Oran informed the participants on the nature of nCoV, and how to avoid being infected of the same. He informed that the said virus is not airborne but rather transmitted from one infected person to another through droplets within a two (2)-meter distance. Also, it can be transmitted through surfaces that have been touched or used by infected persons and have been touched or used by others. Thus, DOH highly recommended the practice of frequent handwashing. Additionally, everyone was encouraged to practice cough etiquette and avoid touching eyes and mouth with bare hands.

Inter-agency close coordination

The PPA PMO MO/C has participated in separate coordination meetings on 04 February 2020 called by the Philippine Coast Guard and Department of Health. The said meetings were attended by the PMO’s Environment Specialist and Port Police Superintendent, respectively. A series of inter-agency coordination meetings is expected as the maritime and port community continues to take precautionary measures against the deadly 2019-nCoV.

The 2019-nCoV that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, is a new strain of coronavirus. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses, that include the common cold, and viruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), according to the World Health Organization. 2019-nCoV can be transmitted from animal to person or infected human to others. — by IMR Lam