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PHL’s top state maritime school PMMA on lockdown after 127 infected with Covid

PHL’s top state maritime school PMMA on lockdown after 127 infected with Covid

SAN NARCISO, Zambales— A localized outbreak of Covid-19 has infected students and some administrative staff at the Philippine Merchant Maritime Academy (PMMA) here, leading local authorities to enforce a lockdown at the country’s premier state maritime school.

A report from the Zambales Provincial Health Office (PHO) on Saturday indicated that the virus has hit a total of 125 PMMA students and two administrative staff and caused the hospitalization of at least five cadets at the provincial hospital in Iba town.

The PHO said that most of the infected cadets had developed fever, coughs and colds, and headache and body pain, while a few reported losing their sense of taste and smell. Only seven of the 127 cases were asymptomatic, or had not shown any symptom at all.

The students are from 19 to 28 years old, and come from various provinces in the country as far as Agusan del Sur and Zamboanga City down south and Tabuk, Kalinga and Ilocos Norte up north.

The two school personnel among the positive cases—a 56-year-old male and a 37-year-old female—both hail from San Narciso, Zambales.

The outbreak was confirmed by Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. on Sunday. He said that the PMMA cases had dramatically increased the number of active Covid-19 cases in Zambales to 415, from just 288 the day before.

“We have taken cognizance of the situation and joint actions with the PMMA and the municipal local government unit are ongoing,” Ebdane told BusinessMirror in a Viber message.

“PMMA is on lockdown and only essential activities occur, like regulated food procurement services. No visitors, including parents of cadets, are allowed entry,” he said.

“I have instructed the PHO to provide all possible health assistance to the PMMA, as well as authorized it to conduct necessary lateral coordination with other agencies,” the governor added.

The PHO said initial antigen tests on 308 PMMA students and staff yielded 136 positive and 172 negative results. Subsequent reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests first gave 105 positives, then 22 more confirmations among the 31 tests with pending outcome early Saturday.

Ebdane said that on Saturday, he ordered the Zambales PHO to inspect the PMMA facilities to see how the PMMA adhered to health safety protocols, and to determine what else should be done and how the provincial government can provide needed assistance. Among those who joined the inspection were Dr. Oscar Rosete, who is the PMMA health officer, and Provincial Disaster Relief Officer Rolex Estella.

A subsequent report from Zambales Health Officer Noel Bueno indicated two critical zones in the PMMA complex—the President Macapagal Hall, where 88 confirmed positive cases of PMMA cadets and one tactical officer are currently isolated, and the Richard Ritual Amphitheater, which houses 11 other positive cases, according to Ebdane.

The Macapagal building, which can accommodate 90 persons, has a total of 15 rooms, with each room containing six cubicles. The rooms have centralized air-conditioning and adequate ventilation, although the toilets are shared, Bueno said in his report.

The two critical buildings are about one kilometer apart, the report added.

Following the inspection, the joint team met at the office of Sa Narciso mayor William Lim to formulate an action plan, Ebdane said.

The PMMA outbreak brought the total confirmed Covid-19 cases in Zambales to 2,431 as of May 29. Last year, the maritime school also experienced a brief surge of Covid-19 cases, with 19 recorded in August.

Meanwhile, Zambales has a record of 1,962 recoveries and 53 Covid-19 deaths so far. Compared with other Central Luzon provinces, it has the second lowest number of active cases at 415 after Aurora’s 207.