NAIA Terminal-3

THE government on Wednesday announced new rules for the so-called new normal at the country’s international and domestic airports, as the coronavirus infections topped 10,000.

In a statement, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said it would enforce physical distancing, temperature and contactless security checks as authorities prepare for the reopening of commercial flights.

The agency said social distancing measures would be in place at all queuing points, while there would be temperature checks at security and vehicle checkpoints at the four terminals of the capital’s international airport.

The Department of Health reported 320 new coronavirus infections yesterday, bringing the total to 10,004.

The death toll climbed to 658 after 21 more patients died, it said in a bulletin. Ninety-eight more patients have gotten well, bringing the total recoveries to 1,506, it added.

Of the 320 new cases,56% or 179 were from Metro Manila, almost a third or 98 were from Central Visayas and 13% or 42 came from other regions, DoH said.

Meanwhile, the airport operator said 57 acrylic barriers have been installed at check-in counters at Terminal 1, adding that it was working double time to complete the installation at the four terminals’ 330 check-in counters.

The counters will also have yellow floor markings to enforce physical distancing among travelers

“I call on the airlines most especially, to help us in the implementation by instructing their check-in personnel to monitor passenger compliance with the guidelines,” MIAA General Manager Eddie V. Monreal said in the statement.

The agency said measures won’t be limited to the use of walk through X-ray machines, portable scanners, handheld metal detectors and the like, effectively limiting pat down or manual frisking to exceptional situations.

The presidential palace announced on Tuesday that the temporary ban on international inbound flights that started on Sunday would only be until 11:59 p.m. on May 8.

MIAA said people entering the airport must wear face masks, adding that it had bought 133,750 pieces of surgical face masks and 4,500 pieces of washable masks for its workers.

Only passengers with valid travel documents and confirmed bookings for the day will be allowed to enter the airport.

Continuous disinfection of all Ninoy Aquino International Airport facilities especially those used for flight operations would be done. These include aerobridges, baggage conveyors, check-in counters, immigration, customs and other help desks.

Disinfection activities will also be done on other airport facilities and equipment such as X-ray machines and trays, inspection tables, pushcarts, wheelchairs and other frequently touched surfaces, it added.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific and flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) on Tuesday said they have been preparing for the resumption of their commercial flights.

Cebu Pacific, operated by Cebu Air, Inc. said all its pilots and cabin crew would undergo rapid antibody tests before being deployed.

All its operating crew, including ground staff, will also don personal protective equipment while on duty.

It said all its aircraft would undergo extensive daily disinfection, and passengers must wear face masks upon entry at the airport and for the duration of the flight.

Cebu Pacific also said it might initially restart commercial operations with a limited number of domestic flights.

PAL, operated by PAL Holdings, Inc. said all its aircraft have air filtration systems and its crew would be in full personal protective equipment to protect every passenger on board against viruses.

Social-distancing cabin seating options as well as simplified meal or snack service will also be carried out.

“Due to the government’s extension of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine period, all PAL international and domestic flights are canceled up to May 15,” PAL said.

Meanwhile, DoH said 1,859 health workers have been infected, 3180 of whom recovered while 34 died.

It said 113,574 people have been tested — 11,917 were positive, while 101,416 were negative.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a separate news briefing they were reinforcing isolation measures.

She said DoH had set up a long-term plan that requires every local health system to have at least one treatment and monitoring facility with one bed or 2,500 people. This would ensure sufficient capacity to treat every COVID-19 patient, she said.

John Wong, a professor at the Ateneo de Manila University’s School of Medicine and Public Health, said coronavirus cases could increase again once the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila is relaxed after May 15.

He earlier said the curve could have flattened already after Luzon was locked down starting on March 17.

Mitigation measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and frequent cleaning should be observed to prevent this, he said at the same online briefing.

Meanwhile, Anna Lisa T. Ong-Lim, president of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines, said most children infected with the virus show “very mild” symptoms.

She also said there were no definite findings that infants with COVID-19-positive mothers automatically get the virus.

Mothers who will breastfeed their children should wear face masks if they have a cough or sore throat to avoid infecting the baby, Ms. Lim said. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Vann Marlo M. Villegas