Pacman Returns

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — HAILED as a national hero after his sensational win over British fighter Ricky “Hitman” Hatton, Manny Pacquiao returns to the country practically a pariah amid officials’ concern he or a member of his entourage could be carrying the dreaded swine flu virus.

Saying public health is at stake, Malacañang reiterated its appeal to boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and the members of his delegation to quarantine themselves upon their arrival today.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez said it is not an issue that Pacquiao and his party did not delay their homecoming for as long they follow the protocol issued by the World Health Organization.

Golez stressed that Pacquiao and his entourage is not being singled out because the WHO advisory applies to all those who have been to countries where there has been a confirmed case of the dreaded A H1N1 influenza virus.

“Wala namang kaso na umuwi si Pacuqiao. Hindi naman siya pinipigilan. Ang importante lang masunod ang WHO protocol na mag-self quarantine ng five days sa bahay niya o sa isang hotel. There is value in respecting protocols. It is for our benefit,” Golez said.

In a letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, WHO said “social distancing should be practiced at the airport or departure and airport of arrival.”

“The welcome greeters in Manila should be kept at a distance of at least one meter and no handshake or any form of social greetings like hugging or kissing. The team members who are not ill during the time of arrival should be encouraged to observe for any signs of illness for a period of five days and inform immediately the Department of Health if there are any symptoms,” WHO said.

Golez said Pacquiao is obviously “misinformed” for saying that he and the members of his entourage need not undergo self-quarantine because nobody has shown signs of any symptoms of the dreaded A H1N1 virus.

He said “it would be a nightmare for public health officials to do contact tracing” should any of the member of Pacquio’s entourage decide not to limit their movements at least for a few days upon their return, citing their experience with the Severe Acquired Immune Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) scare.