Davao City to strengthen maritime security to avoid entry of travelers from Sabah

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 Dec) – Local authorities here will intensify maritime border security to prevent illegal entry of travelers following reports that a mutated strain of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), called A701B, has been discovered in Sabah, Malaysia, a close neighbor of Davao Region.

Securing Davao City’s maritime borders against illegal entry by possible COVID-19 suspects is a challenge. MindaNews file photo

Dr. Ashely Lopez, Davao City Health Office COVID-19 focal person, said during an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Wednesday that although the local government has established a strict system at the Davao International Airport (DIA) in screening the arriving passengers, authorities were concerned that travelers from Sabah may bypass protocols through the porous backdoor channels.

Arriving air passengers are required to present a “negative” reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results taken within 24 to 72 hours before departure to Davao or subject themselves to a free swab test upon arrival.

Lopez said the security group was concerned that travelers from Malaysia who are carrying this new strain may escape notice of local authorities by taking a boat to the region via sea routes from Zamboanga City or municipalities of Maitum and Maasim in Sarangani province in Soccsksargen.

“This is a cause for concern, particularly those who take the motorboats of the fishermen because this is an open sea,” he said.

He said authorities discussed on Wednesday how they can intensify the security measures to prevent infected travelers from skirting border protocols.

Lopez added that local authorities were also concerned about the discovery of a more infectious new strain of COVID-19, called D614G strain, in the United Kingdom.

He said not all mutated strains of the virus could cause more severe symptoms.

“The virus mutates every now and then. We have several mutations already from the start of COVID because that is its characteristics. There is no evidence that this strain is more harmful. The concern for now is that the ability to transmit is two times faster,” Lopez pointed out.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte announced on Monday that Davao City and the province of Davao del Norte will remain under a General Community Quarantine until January 31, 2021.

As of December 29, Department of Health-Davao reported a total of 12,258 COVID-19 cases in the region, with 1,662 active, 10,100 recoveries, and 496 deaths.

Of the total cases, Davao City reported 8,632, Davao de Oro with 594, Davao del Norte with 1,506, Davao del Sur with 869, Davao Occidental with 123, and Davao Oriental with 534. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)