Mayor Sara remains cautious on health status of passengers from Clark

The main entrance for departures at the Davao International Airport in Davao City on 16 March 2020. Flights to and from Manila were suspended as travel to and from Metro Manila by land, sea, and air was suspended effective March 15, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /08 May) – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on Friday said it was an “inaccurate generalization” to say that all 147 passengers who arrived Monday aboard an AirAsia sweeper flight from Clark, Pampanga were cleared of the coronavirus disease.

Reacting to a MindaNews story published last Wednesday, Duterte said during her live interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR) 87.5 that she could not rule out the possibility of infection unless a 14-day mandatory quarantine is completed.

“The only time that we can say that all of those passengers of that flight are cleared is after 14 days if they do not develop any symptoms. It is an inaccurate generalization, to say that none of those passengers had tested positive,” she said.

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

Department of Health (DOH)-Davao assistant regional director Lenny Joy Rivera said earlier that the passengers of AirAsia were all cleared after testing negative based on the “rapid diagnostic test.”

Citing the memorandum issued by the city government for returning passengers, she said they would be placed under 14-day strict home quarantine when they are “asymptomatic” and tested negative for the infection based on the RDT.

“It’s the effort of the local government unit on the procedure on how to deal with returning residents, same with repatriates and, for DOH, as per instruction to us, we prepared Go Hotel just in case if the repatriates need a place to stay,” Rivera said.

The sweeper flights from Clark was paid for by businessman Johnny Ng. The flights included one by a 400-seater aircraft of Cebu Pacific that arrived here Wednesday from Manila carrying 270 passengers, falling short of its target to fill up all seats, according to Duterte.

The RDT, conducted on stranded passengers who arrived from Clark and Manila, is not a sufficient tool to detect COVID-19 positive, she 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.

The RDT is used only as a screening tool to determine if passengers will proceed to their respective homes, to Southern Philippines Medical Center, or to a quarantine facility, she added.

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