40 passengers of Manila-Davao flight test positive for virus

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 25 September) – Forty of the 349 passengers of a flight from Manila that arrived in Davao City on Sept. 21 tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Mayor Sara Duterte said on Friday.

Duterte revealed the results of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests on the passengers during her live interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5).

Inbound passengers at the Davao International Airport. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

She reiterated during the same interview the need to hasten swab testing to shorten the passengers’ period of exposure to a positive case at the airport.

“One of the things we are addressing right now is the arrival of several confirmed RT-PCR cases through plane travel. Lately, many positive cases are arriving. We have seen, from the very start, that allowing plane travel will be a problem. The plane travel could spread COVID-19 virus very fast, so we did a ‘test and wait.’ That’s our intervention,” she said.

She said the infected passengers might be asymptomatic upon their arrival as they passed undetected through a thermal scanner at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The mayor said the Davao International Airport (DIA) now operates its own RT-PCR laboratory, donated by UNILAB Foundation Inc. on Sept. 24, which can process 100 to 110 specimens per eight-hour run.

She said the local government is currently improving its handling of arriving passengers at the airport and its contact-tracing mechanism through a QR code system.

“What we need to improve is the convenience of the air passengers. We don’t want them to stay longer there at our airport where they can sit beside a positive case, and we don’t know who among them are positive,” she said.

Duterte said that after their processing upon arrival she wanted the passengers immediately brought to the holding facilities while waiting for the RT-PCR test results.

If they test negative, the passengers are sent home to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The city government requires swab testing for arriving passengers with no negative COVID-19 result of an RT-PCR test.

The negative result must be issued within 72 hours before their scheduled departure from the airport of origin.

The DIA received 500 to 700 passengers daily, way lower compared to 2,000 arrivals per day before the outbreak, Duterte said.

She said the local government would test-run the QR Code system from Oct. 7-11 so airport workers would no longer come face-to-face with air travelers, minimizing the risk of exposure to the virus.

“Our frontliners are more exposed because they process passengers from several flights a day. We need to protect our frontliners and, finally, we want to look for the positive more quickly,” she said.

Based on the data released by the City Tourism Office, arrivals in the city through air travel from March to August this year only reached 128,542, a decrease of 90 percent from 1,349,730 reported for the same period last year. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)