Solons protest plan to quarantine them

House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella on Friday protested reports that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III will have them quarantined when they return from Las Vegas.

Undeterred by the novel swine flu virus that has also hit the US, around 50 congressmen, along with other fans of Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, went to Las Vegas to watch the match against British boxer Ricky Hatton.

“They will go through the usual quarantine measures. Nobody will be exempted, not even the congressmen who will watch Pacquiao, because we have to protect them,” Duque was quoted in a press conference on Friday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the pandemic alert from Phase 4 to Phase 5, which sends a signal to countries to ready the full implementation of their respective Pandemic Response Plans.

The US has reported at least one death due to the novel influenza A (H1N1) in Nevada, where Las Vegas is located.

“Does he mean only the congressmen specifically as targets? Or everyone who arrives from Vegas and California? To target and single out only the congressmen would be grossly malicious and discriminatory,” Nograles told House reporters in a text message.

Puentevella also questioned the legal basis of the health secretary in seeking to quarantine them.

“Word of advice: the Department of Health has already too many many problems, and their hands are so full today. To threaten to isolate the congressmen will probably only aggravate and exacerbate their worries and sleepless nights,” Puentevella said.

“Yes, they can always try it. I hope they have legal basis to do that also. You just can’t limit freedom of movement or freedom of speech without legal basis,” he added.

Swine flu symptoms

Duque said Friday that Team Pacquiao and congressmen who will be returning from Las Vegas, Nevada will be quarantined if health inspectors find them with swine flu symptoms.

Duque said after a conference among top officials of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) in Camp Aguinaldo that the government has to strictly implement the monitoring and screening of all arriving travellers from affected countries to effectively prevent the deadly influenza virus’ entry to the country.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, NDCC chairman, told radio dzMM in an interview that airport and port inspectors have been told to strictly inspect and check all passengers entering the country, including VIPs.

“Entry points have to be strictly monitored. There will be no VIPs in the [thermal] scanning,” he said.

He said government agencies under the NDCC have been ordered to go on the high alert after the World Health Organization’s raised the swine flu alert level to 5.

Duque on Thursday announced that the government will quarantine a group of 300 pilgrims from the Philippines who went to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico when they return to the Philippines. — with a report from CARMELA FONBUENA,
as of 05/01/2009 7:09 PM

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