CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 03 August) – Barangay officials and residents who turned away neighbors who have recovered from COVID-19 received a stern rebuke from Mayor Oscar Moreno for what he said was “tantamount to discrimination,” an act that violates a city ordinance.
The Cagayan de Oro City Council in April passed a “COVID-19 Anti-discrimination Ordinance” that punishes any form of discrimination against persons with confirmed COVID-19 infection, persons covered under “suspect” and/or “probable” cases, close contacts, health workers, hospital employees, and other frontliners.
The ordinance imposes a fine of 5,000 pesos and community service for 30 days or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both against offenders.
“The refusal of barangay officials and residents to allow the patients to return home is tantamount to discrimination,” Moreno said, adding they should welcome them back to their communities instead.
Moreno also said barangay officials should lift their quarantine checkpoints after the City Health Office (CHO) has disinfected their communities.
The CHO has recorded at least three incidents where barangay officials and residents prevented recovered COVID-19 patients from returning home.
The latest was in Barangay 35 where residents stopped a market vendor who has recovered from the disease, from returning to her house.
City Epidemiologist Dr. Joselito Retuya said the female patient had tested negative twice after undergoing two RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests.
Retuya said the patient completed the mandatory two-week quarantine at the city temporary treatment management facility.
“Her neighbors and barangay officials should not have prevented her from returning to her house,” Retuya said.
Some of those who recovered had to seek police assistance to return to their houses.
In Barangay Pagatpat, residents blocked the entrance of a relocation shelter to stop a husband and wife after the City Health Office had declared them “recovered.
Police had to be called in to pacify the residents and city health officials had to take the couple to a temporary shelter in one of the city’s isolation units.
Retuya said that in Barangay Camaman-an, 17 family members of Patient 6763 also suffered discrimination and were ostracized by their neighbors.
He said in the case of the 74-year-old wife of Patient 6784, City Health Officials had to threaten neighbors with fines and imprisonment if they did not accept her back in the community after having recovered from the disease.
When medical responders fetched her to bring her to the isolation center weeks ago, the traumatized wife pulled a knife and threatened medical responders from going near her.
Retuya said it took a while before the responders were able to persuade her to go with them.
City Health Officer Dr. Lorraine Nery said Cagayan de Oro has 159 COVID-19 cases, most of whom had just returned from Manila.
Nery said 92 patients have recovered, making the recovery rate at 57.9 percent.
She said 61 patients are still considered active cases or undergoing quarantine at the city treatment management facility.
Nery said the death toll remains at six patients since March this year. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)