By William Casis

Raising the possibility that infected persons may have already entered the country even before the travel ban was imposed, Sen. Imee Marcos said the government must move on from a belated travel ban and enforce more comprehensive measures to stop the spread of the novel corona-virus in the country. 

She said government directives must now cover social interaction beyond the country’s points of entry. 

“It’s not OA when it concerns the health and even the life of a person. Ang mga dating pwedeng pagpilian na gawin dapat ay mahigpit nang ipatupad ngayon,” Marcos said. 

Among the stronger precautionary measures that could be taken, Marcos proposed, was to extend random temperature checks by nurses or trained personnel at the entrances of court offices, conference venues and even meeting rooms.  

She said dispensers of antiseptic hand sanitizers should be installed not just in toilets but also along hallways and other strategic places. 

Also, she said the use of face masks by frontline, public desk, service utility personnel must be required.

Marcos added that government must assess events daily, even hourly and determine if compulsory leaves of absence may have to be imposed in schools, health care centers and other places especially where children and the elderly converge since they are considered most vulnerable to the virus. 

Sketchy government advisories before the travel ban have led airlines, universities, call centers and other offices to resort to their own restrictions, Marcos said. 

The government must also start assessing the economic impact of the on-going epidemic on trade and tourism in the country and take necessary action to minimize its effects, Marcos, who is the chair of the Senate economic affairs committee, added. 

Marcos issued the statement after the government’s inter-agency task force officially announced a ban on the entry of all nationals who have been to China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, except Filipinos and permanent resident visa holders who will instead undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. 

Amid fear and uncertainty over the true extent of the viral epidemic, various countries have imposed bans on travel to and from China, disregarding the World Health Organization’s praise for China’s aggressive efforts to stem the spread of the 2109-nCoV virus and a caveat that travel and trade restrictions were not necessary. 

Marcos noted that Singapore was able to gain headway in its fight against the virus by imposing a travel ban January 23, one week before the WHO declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.