CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 7 July) – The head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 has granted the appeal of Governor Mamintal Adiong to suspend until July 15 the repatriation of returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and locally stranded individuals (LSIs) as the daily arrivals have overwhelmed health workers and frontliners and caused a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases from nine as of June 7 to 111 as of July 5.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, concurrent head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said in his letter dated July 1 that the suspension is from July 1 to July 15. The Lanao del Sur government received the letter only on Monday, July 6.
Adiong earlier asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to stop sending home residents after the number rose to 100 to 200 arrivals a day.
“We are only capable of handling 50 to 70 returning residents a day. How can we attend to them if they come in big numbers?” Lanao del Sur Inter-Agency Task Force focal person Sheila Ganda said.
“Just the other day, there were 400 arrivals. Our frontliners nearly collapsed out of exhaustion,” she told MindaNews on Monday.
Ganda said many residents who fled Lanao del Sur during the Marawi siege in 2017 are returning because of the economic hardships in Manila due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the longest in Asia.
She said they have only limited number of professional health workers and volunteers who serve as their frontliners.
Zia Alonto Adiong, Bangsamoro Member of Parliament and spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, said the high number of returning residents found positive of COVID-19 also threatened the capacity of the provincial quarantine facility in Barangay Sagonsongan, Marawi City.
As of 8 a.m. on July 6, the Lanao del Sur IATF reported 110 cumulative coronavirus cases among the returning residents.
Adiong said 80 of the residents have recovered and were sent home leaving 30 residents in the quarantine facility in Sagonsongan.
Adiong said they will use the period of suspension to review and improve the local health emergency response for the returning residents.
As of 6 p.m. on July 6, the Ministry of Health of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao reported a total of 190 cases in the five-province region, 111 or 58.4% of these in Lanao del Sur. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)