South Cotabato tightens watch on returning OFWs after one turns out positive of COVID-19

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 June) – Health personnel in South Cotabato province have tightened their monitoring on the returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) after one of them turned out positive for possible coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection in rapid antibody test.

Hannah Ebeo, health education and promotion officer of the Integrated Provincial Health Office, said Tuesday a resident of Tampakan town tested positive in the rapid diagnostic test upon arrival from Cebu last Sunday.

She said the returning LSI was among the 102 passengers of a Cebu Pacific Air “sweeper” flight arranged by the provincial government that arrived at the city international airport on Sunday afternoon.

Ebeo said swab samples were already collected from the concerned person and was scheduled for delivery within the day to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City for the confirmatory Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test.

“[The LSI] was under strict isolation and quarantine pending the release of the PCR test,” she said in a press briefing.

As of Tuesday morning, Ebeo said a total of 586 returning OFWs and LSIs were undergoing mandatory 14-day quarantine in designated isolation facilities within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

She said all of them were properly screened and isolated upon arrival since last week through special flights and chartered buses arranged by the national and provincial governments.

The monitoring was being done in collaboration with the rural health units and the barangay health emergency response teams, she said.

In a statement, Tampakan Mayor Leonard Escobillo said the person who tested positive in the rapid test was one of three family members who returned home from Cebu.

He said the two others tested negative and all of them did not have contact with any local resident upon arrival aside from two nurses and two medical technologists who were already undergoing home quarantine.

The mayor said they already started the tracing of the LSI’s other co-passengers in the special flight and bus trip to Koronadal City, where they were turned over to the municipal government.

“There’s no need to panic,” Escobillo said, adding the local government personnel handling the returning OFWs and LSIs were strictly following the health and safety protocols to prevent the possible transmission of the disease. (MindaNews)