14 foreigners, 2 locals who tested positive for COVID-19 in Palawan being checked for variants – authorities

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26)— Authorities are checking the samples of 14 foreign tourists and two local crew members who tested positive for COVID-19 in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan for variants of concern.

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday, city information officer assistant Normalyn Dave said the group sailed for Tubbataha Reef on May 14.

On May 18, five foreign tourists who experienced mild coronavirus symptoms initially tested positive in an antigen test.

“Nag-test ang buong barko. May limang nag-positive so bumalik sila ng Puerto Princesa Port. Nakipag-ugnayan na sila kaagad sa IMT (Incident Management Team), so kinuha sila from port, dinala na sila sa quarantine facility,” Dave said.

[Translation: The whole ship underwent testing. Five tested positive so they went back to Puerto Princesa Port. They immediately coordinated with the IMT, so they were fetched from the port, and were brought to the quarantine facility.]

The yacht was carrying 23 foreign tourists and 20 Filipino crew members who all underwent RT-PCR testing after coming back to Puerto Princesa City.

All 16 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 are now in isolation.

“For now ilan na lang ang may symptoms pero mild symptoms lang [only a few have symptoms but only mild], the rest, the majority are asymptomatic,” Dave said.

They separately arrived in Puerto Princesa in groups on May 13 and 14. But officials are still checking if they visited other places in the Philippines.

Preventing further entry

Puerto Princesa City COVID-19 IMT commander Dr. Dean Palanca is meeting with the tourism office and provincial health office to prevent further entry of COVID-19 positive tourists.

The city is under Alert Level 1, which means no antigen or RT-PCR test is required upon entry.

But they are appealing to hotel and resort management and travel agencies to help screen visitors.

“Ang hinihiling din namin talaga doon sa tourism industry, magkaroon sila ng increased surveillance nila. Na-train na natin ‘yan. Karamihan ng mga hotels and other tourism industry (establishments) dito may sariling COVID safety officer,” Palanca said.

[Translation: What we’re wishing for in the tourism industry is for them to have increased surveillance. We’ve already trained them. Most of the hotels and other tourism establishments here have their own COVID safety officer.]

Last April, a group of 14 tourists from the United States and a local crew member who sailed to Tubbataha Reef also tested positive for COVID-19. All 12 samples sent to the laboratory for genome sequencing have the highly infectious Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1.

RELATED: Tour operators, resort owners' help sought in monitoring possible COVID-19 cases in Palawan