1 of 270 passengers of sweeper flight tests positive for COVID-19

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 May) —  One of  270 passengers on board the 400-seater sweeper flight of Cebu Pacific Air that arrived in Davao City from Manila on Wednesday tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the city government confirmed on Saturday.

In a statement released by the Davao City Information Office, the family members of the passengers of the May 6 flight have been told to avoid “direct physical contact,” although the local government had previously assured they would be placed under a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

“Other people can distinguish these new arrival individuals with the indelible ink on their left index finger. If you see anyone with this mark, please do not go near them for the next 14 to 21 days,” it added.

Passengers of the Cebu Pacific sweeper flight from Manila on Wednesday went through an initial health screening procedure upon arrival in Davao City. Photo courtesy of City Government of Davao

Upon arrival, all passengers went through a health screening procedure where the positive patient had initially failed in the “rapid diagnostic test,” and was immediately brought to Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) for a swab test using real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machine, considered as the “gold-standard” in the detection of COVID-19 positives.

Result of the swab test confirmed the passenger was infected, it said.

As of 5 p.m. on Friday, Department of Health-Davao said the total COVID-19 cases in Davao Region were 170, with the addition of nine new cases.  Davao City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Mindanao, recorded 152, Davao del Norte 10, Davao del Sur two, Davao de Oro two, Davao Oriental three, and Davao Occidental 1.

There were 96 recoveries and 21 deaths, according to DOH-Davao.

The city government said the City Health Office (CHO) would subject “all those who were seated on the plane near this individual” to further screening and reminded other passengers of the May 6 flight from Manila to go to SPMC for assessment “if they develop symptoms within 14 days.”

It said city government would raise this issue to the Regional Inter-agency Task Force on COVID-19  “and request the national government to prohibit boarding of individuals in Manila going to all the local destinations without a confirmed RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction machine) negative result.”

Mayor Sara Duterte on Friday said over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR) 87.5, that the rapid diagnostic test (RDT) conducted on arriving passengers from Clark and Manila, is not a sufficient tool to detect COVID-19 positive.

The sweeper flights from Clark on Monday and from Manila on Wednesday, were paid for by businessman Johnny Ng.

The 400-seater aircraft of Cebu Pacific that arrived here Wednesday from Manila carried 270 passengers, falling short of its target to fill up all seats, the mayor said.

“That is why, we have symptom screening cards and gave them instructions, and their names were given to the district offices and barangay captains,” she said

She said all returning Dabawenyos would start Day 1 of the quarantine period upon arrival, and would be cleared only after the 14 days, the incubation period of COVID-19.

The RDT is used only as a screening tool to determine if passengers will proceed to their respective homes, to SPMC or to a quarantine facility, after their arrival in the city, she said.

“So, it (RDT) is not used to say whether you are negative or positive. We are using it to say where you are going (upon arrival),” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)