FLAG CARRIER Philippine Airlines (PAL) will be deploying “special flights” between Manila and Xiamen on Monday next week to carry stranded passengers after their flights were canceled when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered a travel ban.

“Philippine Airlines will be mounting special flights on February 10, 2020 Monday to assist passengers stranded as a result of the cancellation of all PAL flights to and from mainland China for the month of February, amidst the ongoing coronavirus (nCoV ARD) situation,” it said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

PAL, operated by PAL Holdings, Inc., said its flights to and from Xiamen would be staffed by pilots and crew volunteering for the operation.

It also said that it was looking to use its 199-seater Airbus A321 aircraft for the mission.

The special flight from Xiamen is expected to take Filipinos and individuals with permanent resident visas to the Philippine capital.

“The outbound flight from Manila will allow Chinese and other non-Filipino nationals to return to mainland China via Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport, which is a gateway to other points in China,” PAL said.

It added: “Flight PR 334 will depart Manila for Xiamen at 7:30 a.m. on February 10, arriving at 9:55 a.m. The return PR335 leg will depart Xiamen at 11:05 a.m., and arrive in Manila at 1:50 p.m. on February 10.”

According to PAL, special flights are subject to approval by the Philippine government.

Pilots and cabin crew, all Filipino nationals, will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine after the mission.

Local airlines canceled their flights to and from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau after Mr. Duterte issued a travel ban order on these countries in the midst of the coronavirus scare.

The Philippines’ Health department confirmed on Wednesday a third case of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) in the country.

The patient, a 60-year old Chinese woman, flew back to China on Jan. 31 after two tests. A re-testing done on Feb. 3 confirmed she was a carrier of the new strain of the coronavirus.

The woman traveled from Wuhan City, the nCoV epicenter, and arrived in Cebu City through Hong Kong on January 20, and went on to Bohol.

The first case of nCoV in the country was reported last week in a 38-year old Chinese woman who is currently in stable condition but remains under strict monitoring. Her partner, a 44-year old Chinese man, was the second confirmed case reported in the country and the first nCoV-related death outside China.

As of Feb. 5, the Health department said there have been 133 persons under investigation (PUIs) for the nCoV, of which 115 are in quarantine while 16 have already been discharged.

Of the PUIs, 63 are Filipinos, 54 Chinese, and the rest are other nationalities. Thirty-two of the total PUIs have a travel history in Wuhan. — Arjay L. Balinbin