Wuhan tourists on Boracay to be flown back to China
ILOILO CITY –– Hundreds of remaining tourists from Wuhan City in China, who are vacationing on Boracay Island, will be transported back following a lockdown imposed on the Chinese City, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
But several residents of Boracay Island have raised alarm and outcry why the flights from Wuhan were suspended only on Thursday.
Eric Apolonio, spokesperson of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said Pan Pacific Airlines and Royal Air Charter would transport their remaining passengers, who arrived before the lockdown was implemented.
The two airlines operate a total of six chartered flights from Wuhan to Kalibo and back weekly.
A Pan-Pacific Airline flight with 135 passengers arrived at the Kalibo International Airport (KIA) about 6 a.m. on Thursday, the last flight before the lockdown was imposed.
Representatives of the airlines, in a meeting with the Civil Aeronautics Board and CAAP, subsequently decided to suspend indefinitely flights between Wuhan and Kalibo.
Apolonio said the 135 passengers were allowed to deplane and proceed to Boracay after undergoing “rigid” screening from personnel of the Bureau of Quarantine.
Passengers at the KIA were individually scanned with hand-held thermal scanners before they deplaned.
“If there is an increase in body temperature, they will be isolated and brought to (the) government hospital if necessary,” Apolonio told the INQUIRER on Friday.
He said they had not received reports of any of the passengers needing medical attention.
“We have contact with the travel agents and they are contained in one area in a hotel. It is easy to detect and contact them if there are issues,” he said.
Flights from other destinations in China would, however, continue, according to Apolonio.
He said passengers of these flights would also be made to fill up health forms.
The forms require, among others, disclosure of their travel history and contact information while in the Philippines.
But several residents of Boracay have raised the alarm, noting that the incubation period of the disease, or the time when symptoms appear after exposure to the infection, is up to 14 days.
“They (tourists from Wuhan) are already here and we don’t know if they are infected or not even if they passed the thermal scanners,” one resident said.
Some residents have taken to social media to call for a ban on all flights from China and not just Wuhan.
Boracay is packed with Chinese tourists especially because of the Chinese New Year celebration starting January 25.
“It’s still crowded here,” a resident, who asked not to be identified, said.
Chinese tourists are the top foreign visitors on Boracay Island.
In 2019, 434,175 tourists from China visited the island, which comprised 41.84 percent of the total 1,032,619 foreign tourists who went to the island.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday said it was not yet declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, but also expected the spread of the infection in any country.
“Thus, all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of the onward spread of 2019-nCoV infection, and to share full data with WHO,” it said in a statement issued by the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency
Committee convened by the WHO.
The new strain of the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan in December, causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases and has so far resulted in 25 deaths and more than 800 confirmed cases as of Thursday./lzb