2 ‘balikbayans’, stranded resident are Caraga’s latest COVID-19 patients

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 01 June) — Two “balikbayans” or returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and a locally-stranded individual (LSI) were tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bringing to eight the total confirmed cases in Caraga (Region 13) which is now under a modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) status, records showed.

Two of the new COVID-19 cases are from Agusan del Sur, which has been free from the dreaded disease in the past two months. The COVID-19 patients who are both asymptomatic include a returning OFW from Florida in the United States (a 37-year-old male from San Francisco town) and a 41-year-old male from Cagayan de Oro City who wanted to re-apply for a job at the Philsaga Mining Corp. in Rosario town.

The other new COVID-19 case in Caraga is a returning 26-year-old male OFW from Butuan City in Agusan del Norte. As of posting time, it could not be determined from what country he came from.

The three new cases were found positive through the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab test conducted at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, the Department of Health-Caraga reported on Sunday, May 31.

On the other hand, 6 suspect and 13 probable COVID-19 cases were tested negative of the disease, it added.

So far, Caraga region recorded eight confirmed, 129 suspect and 24 probable COVID-19 cases, data showed.

Dr. Jose Llacuna, Jr., DOH-Caraga director, said they are continuously coordinating with the local government units and other concerned agencies in contact tracing activities, monitoring the condition of all returning OFWs and LSIs and in adhering to the standards set in cutting the transmission of the highly contagious disease.

“With the current developments especially in the implementation of modified general community quarantine, we should not let our guards down,” he said in a statement.

He reiterated the appeal for everyone, especially the elderlies, children, pregnant and lactating women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions, to continue strictly observing all health precautionary measures like regular hand washing, practicing cough etiquette and physical or social distancing to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“Again, as much as possible, stay at home and go out only when necessary,” Llacuna said.

In Agusan del Sur, all of the 15 quarantined persons, who mostly availed the government’s “Balik Probinsya” (Return to the Province) program, were initially tested positive in a rapid antibody tests, prompting health workers to swab them for confirmatory RT-PCR tests.

The COVID-19 patient from the US stayed at a hotel in Manila for over a month while under quarantine and was tested negative in the initial RT-PCR test. He arrived in the province on May 24 while the other patient came in on May 22.

Dr. Jaqueline Frances Momville, Agusan del Sur provincial health officer, said the two COVID-19 patients in the province are on stable condition.

Calling their cases as “imported,” she said they were expecting more COVID-19 cases in the coming days with many residents availing the Balik Probinsya program.

Momville said that contact tracing were immediately done after the laboratory results came out since they have the list of persons, including the frontliners, who faced the COVID-19 patients at the quarantine facility.

She reiterated calls for residents across the province to stay at home now that the province has already two confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Our home is the main frontliner in this battle against the deadly COVID-19,” she said.

Agusan del Sur Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. said he will ask the national Inter-Agency Task Force to allow the Provincial COVID-19 Task Force to conduct another swab testing to returning residents even as they already went through the same tests while in quarantine in Manila.

He noted that such measure is part of the stringent rules they have put in place for returning residents who will be also strictly screened and quarantined for 14 days before they would be reunited with their families.