12 of 16 Balik-Probinsya students in Maguindanao test positive of COVID-19

COTABATO City (MindaNews / 26 May) – The number of positive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases among students earlier stranded in Cebu who availed of the Balik-Probinsya program of Maguindanao province now rose to 12 after results of the confirmatory tests conducted in Cotabato City came out Tuesday.

The Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan municipality. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Initially, only one of the students was found positive of COVID-19 after all the students underwent a swab test upon their arrival on May 16, said Dr. Elizabeth Samama, chief of the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital located in the municipality of Datu Hoffer Ampatuan.

She said the first found to be positive of COVID-19 is a 22-year-old student, now on isolation. The rest are quarantined in another building, with a room for each of them.

Samama said the 15 students again underwent reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test Friday last week when three of them developed fever.

“The results came out today,” she said

They students were fetched in Cebu City and traveled by boat to Cagayan de Oro City, then boarded a bus owned by the provincial government for the trip to Maguindanao.

“We learned that some of the students came from a place where there is a local transmission of COVID-19. We are just lucky enough we had not let them go directly to their homes upon arrival. Had we let that happen, it would have been a disaster,” Samama said.

Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan, Minister of Health of the Bangsamoro region, theorized that the contamination might have occurred during their travel.

“Problem is, they were not tested when they left Cebu, something lacking in the protocol,” he noted.

Dipatuan said he is now working on a stricter mechanism for the Balik-Probinsya program, which include conducting tests first in their areas of origin before they could travel back to their hometowns. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)