EIGHTY-NINE individuals are currently undergoing stringent monitoring from the Department of Health (DOH) after they were traced as close contacts of the eight Filipinos from China that tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have identified a total of 89 individuals as close contacts of the eight Filipinos on board four flights from China.

“All close contacts are undergoing monitoring. They will be monitored every day until they are able to complete our protocol for monitoring,” Vergeire said.

In the first flight, there were a total of 19 close contacts — including 18 foreigners and one Filipino — 17 fully vaccinated, one partially vaccinated and one unvaccinated.

In the second flight, there were 23 close contacts, including 16 foreigners and seven Filipinos, all being fully jabbed.

For the third flight, there were 27 close contacts, all of whom are Filipinos and fully vaccinated.

For the fourth flight, there were 20 close contacts, including 12 foreigners and eight Filipinos, with 19 being fully vaccinated and one unvaccinated.

Vergeire said all but one of the close contacts have not manifested any Covid-19 symptoms.

“The one showing symptoms has been subjected to testing and will be undergoing isolation until we get the results of the test,” said Vergeire.

On Wednesday, the DOH reported that there were eight Filipinos who arrived from China between December 27, 2022 and January 2, 2023 that tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

Protocol changes

Their arrivals came amid the heightened alert in the Philippines on travellers from China, where Covid-19 cases have been on a rapid surge recently.

Vergeire said the detection of the eight cases from China is proof that it is not yet necessary to change the country’s border control protocols.

“We came out with an order before the New Year for our border control units to heighten surveillance activities. By doing that, we were able to detect these reported (Covid-19) positive Filipinos from China,” said Vergeire.

“We do not yet see any reasons that is based on science and evidence that we should have additional restrictions,” she added.

The health official also said it is not necessary to change protocols, especially if it is only for one specific country, like China.

“We know that interactions happen across the globe. We see this not just in China, but in other parts of the world,” said Vergeire.

The DOH’s statement echoes that of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who said changes in the country’s Covid-19 travel protocols must be science-based and is not limited to persons coming from China.

This comes amid calls for the government to impose stricter requirements for travelers coming from China amid the recent surge in Covid cases there. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)