COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 2 June) – Health authorities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have ordered an investigation why a student who arrived from Cebu City was allowed to leave the isolation center and stay with his family in Maguindanao, tested positive of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and eventually infected three of his siblings.
“We will investigate this matter. He should still be isolated until he finishes his 14-day quarantine, but how come he was allowed to return home?” BARMM Health Minister Safrullah Dipatuan said.
Three of the student’s siblings – aged 13, 14 and 18 – have tested positive of COVID-19 in a confirmatory swab test.
Sixteen students studying in Cebu were fetched by the provincial government of Maguindanao under the “Balik Probinsya” program. They travelled by boat from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro City and travelled aboard a government-owned bus to Maguindanao.
Upon arrival on May 16, all of them were subjected to rapid test (not swab test as earlier reported) while on a 14-day quarantine at the isolation center at the back of the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Datu Hofer town.
During the rapid test, all of them tested negative of COVID-19.
However, the next day, on May 17, one of the 16 students was monitored to have symptoms of COVID-19 and was immediately swabbed for a confirmatory test. He reportedly came from a place in Cebu that is highly affected by the spread of the virus.
On May 18, the parents of one of the quarantined students, a resident of nearby Shariff Aguak municipality, requested that he be allowed to go home as all of them have undergone rapid test that yielded negative results anyway, with the promise that he will continue to be quarantined at home.
But on May 19, after the confirmatory test of the student with COVID-19 symptoms turned out positive, the 15 other students were swabbed, including the male student who went home. He was immediately sent back to the isolation center.
On May 22, 11 of the students turned out to positive of COVID-19, including the one who went home.
Dr. Elizabeth Samama, Maguindanao health chief, said the student’s mother, a health worker, has requested that her son be allowed to return home to do the self-isolation since he was found negative during the rapid test.
“Confident she knew the protocol and promised that his son has a separate room for self-quarantine at home for 14-days, this was compromised,” Samama said.
On May 26, everyone who had close encounter with the male student were subjected to swab tests. Three of his siblings turned out positive when results came out on May 29.
The three, however, are asymptomatic, Samama said.
The boy’s mother is a worker of at the Maguindanao Integrated Provincial Health Office as midwife while the father is a town councilor of Shariff Aguak.
“We are calling on our constituents that let’s not use our position or influence to breach COVID-19 protocols that will result to a bigger problem,” Dipatuan lamented.
All the 15 students, including the parents and relatives of the boy who went home to stay with his family, are now inside the isolation center while contact tracing continues. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)