Labor, Customs agencies take measures against MERS-CoV

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Malacañang on Wednesday urged Filipinos to be on alert against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak despite the negative laboratory results of the returning passengers of the Etihad Airways flight 0424.

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For their part, government agencies transacting with labor migrants and international traders are raising public awareness about the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus (MERS-CoV).

“Despite these highly encouraging results we call on our citizens to remain vigilant and to heed preventive measures and quarantine procedures of our health authorities,” Communications Sec. Herminio Coloma Jr. told a press conference.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), 221 passengers out of the 325 who have been contacted tested negative in the nose and throat swabbing for the MERS-CoV, while 46 are still undergoing contact tracing. Meanwhile, only 43 out of the 414 total passengers have not yet been contacted.

Returning Middle East travellers on the other hand, are advised to provide detailed contact information in the quarantine forms to facilitate subsequent tracing if needed.

The World Health Organization has announced a total of 243 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV, with 93 deaths since September 2012.

Meanwhile, the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) has coordinated with the Bureau of Quarantine and the DOH for the strict monitoring of suspected carriers of the MERS-CoV at the airport.

The CIAC also tapped the services of the CIAC Emergency Services including its medical personnel for emergency response to attend passengers suspected of afflicted with the disease. Dr. Jay Cruz, CIAC quarantine medical officer, said they have installed a thermal scanner at the airport.

On the labor front, information about the virus will now be incorporated as one of the modules on the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS)—a mandatory education and information orientation session for all departing OFWs—of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), following its outbreak in Middle East.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz ordered OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon to incorporate the MERS-CoV in the conduct of the PDOS before the overseas Filipino worker (OFWs) are deployed abroad.

The OWWA is an attached agency of the DOLE.

Further, the labor chief instructed Dimzon to compose a similar advisory to all PDOS providers, including licensed recruitment firms, in-house PDOS centers, associations and non-government organizations accredited by the OWWA to provide the orientation to all OFWs.

Instead of issuing a travel restriction or deployment ban to Middle East countries, the DOLE has issued an advisory of precautionary measures.

Likewise, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), another attached agency of the DOLE has taken precautionary measures for newly hired, returning OFWs and OFWs on-site against the MERS-CoV.

POEA Chief Hans Leo Cacdac said the OFWs should heed the warning and advice of government officials for combating the disease.

The POEA said the OFWs should trust only information from relevant government authorities.

Relatedly, front liners of the Bureau of Customs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (BOC-NAIA) on Wednesday started wearing personal and protective paraphernalia such as medical masks and rubber gloves due to the MERS-CoV scare.

According to BOC-NAIA District Collector Edgar Macabeo, they are mulling the purchase of 40 medical masks for their front liners at the NAIA arrival area.

“But they have to buy their own for the meantime while we are waiting for the approval of our request,” Macabeo said.

Last Monday, some cautious immigration officers at the airport have began wearing medical masks as they processed planeloads of passengers from several Middle East countries.

The officers disclosed that they bought their own medical masks while waiting for the supply from the main office.

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