South Cotabato tracks down persons in contact with new COVID-19 positive

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 18 May) — Health personnel in South Cotabato have launched an extensive tracing of persons who possibly had close contact with a patient from Polomolok town who tested positive for the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., chief of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said Monday they are currently tracking down all direct and secondary contacts of the 25-year-old male patient, the province’s fourth COVID-19 case, in coordination with the barangay health emergency response teams.

He said the IPHO’s emergency operations center and the Polomolok Municipal Health Office were leading the contact-tracing activities.

The entire Barangay Rubber in Polomolok, where the patient hails, was placed by the municipal government on Monday under “total community quarantine or preemptive lockdown” to facilitate faster contact-tracing.

Aturdido said the tracing process covers all individuals who had direct contact with the patient as well as the secondary contacts in the last 14 days from the onset of his symptoms.

The close contacts were those who had mingled with the patient for at least 15 minutes within a meter distance, he said.

As of Sunday night, he said 10 of the patient’s close contacts were initially identified and subjected to rapid diagnostic tests.

The patient, who appears to have no history of travel outside the province, was confirmed positive of the disease on Sunday based on results released by the Southern Philippines Medical Center laboratory in Davao City.

Aturdido said the laboratory confirmation, which was first announced by the Department of Health (DOH)-Region 12 on Sunday night, came out on the same day that the patient was discharged from the province’s COVID-19 center at the Soccsksargen General Hospital in Surallah town.

The patient, who was admitted at the facility due to suspected symptoms of the disease, was just brought home by an ambulance of the Polomolok Municipal Hospital on Sunday morning when he was told of the positive test result, he said.

Aturdido said the patient was immediately transferred to the municipal isolation facility to undergo strict mandatory quarantine.

“He is currently in stable condition and already considered as clinically recovered but still on isolation and closely monitored by our health workers,” he said in a press conference in Koronadal City.

Citing their records, the official said the patient had been suffering from pulmonary problem in the last two months and underwent checkups with private doctors and was admitted in various hospitals.

He was checked last May 6 by a private doctor and was recommended to undergo x-ray due to a persistent cough.

The patient manifested frequent vomiting on May 9 and experienced difficulty in breathing the following day, prompting doctors to refer him to the provincial government’s COVID-19 hospital in Surallah.

His condition eventually improved and was cleared for release on Sunday morning after recovering from the symptoms.

Aturdido said the MHO has yet to complete the tracing of the patient’s movements but said it appears that the latter has not traveled outside the province in recent months.

“We need to establish where he possibly got the infection so we can determine whether this is a case of local or community transmission,” he said.

Rudy Jimenea, the head executive assistant of Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., urged residents to remain calm and assured that the local government is on top of the situation, and doing everything to contain the spread of the virus.

He said the local government has been continually fast tracking the rollout of its localized contact-tracing system and the accreditation of the COVID-19 testing center in Koronadal City.

But he said the governor declared that the province might be placed anew under enhanced community quarantine in case another positive case emerges and such requirements are not yet in place.

As of Sunday, the IPHO said at least nine suspect COVID-19 patients were still admitted at the province’s COVID-19 center.

The three other confirmed cases in South Cotabato, who all had history of travel and considered to have acquired the disease outside of the province, have already fully recovered.

A total of 16 suspect COVID-19 patients have died in the last two months and 14 of them had tested negative for coronavirus disease. (MindaNews)