GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 08 August) — The provincial government of South Cotabato has launched extensive contact-tracing activities for a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) case in Koronadal City that is being considered as possible local transmission.
South Cotabato Governor. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. confirmed in a press conference on Saturday afternoon that a seafarer with no recent travel history tested positive of COVID-19 in the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing on Friday, August 7.
He said the patient arrived in Koronadal City from overseas deployment last January or prior to the spread and declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor said the seafarer was scheduled fly to Manila via Davao City this weekend for another deployment and submitted himself to RT-PCR testing as a requirement for outgoing airline passengers.
From Koronadal City, he said the latter proceeded directly to the testing center in Davao City on Thursday afternoon, Aug. 6, and the results the next day showed he was positive of SARS–CoV–2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“This is very alarming since he is not an LSI (locally-stranded individual) or ROF (returning Overseas Filipino Worker). Does it mean that the disease now exists in Koronadal City or in South Cotabato? That’s what we are trying to find out and tracing right now,” Tamayo said.
He said the epidemiology and surveillance units of Koronadal City and South Cotabato already started the contact-tracing activities and so far identified at least 555 “possible close contacts.”
These were based on the interviews with the patient as well as the manual and electronic logs of local business establishments, he said.
Tamayo said most of the contacts were traced from nine business establishments in Koronadal City that have so far adopted the innovative digital South Cotabato Contact-Tracing System (SC-CCTS).
The SC-CCTS, enacted through a provincial ordinance, is a localized web and mobile application that aims to contain and avert the spread or transmission of the virus through the quick and immediate contact tracing of people who may have been possibly exposed to positive COVID-19 confirmed patients within the province.
He said the system captured in detail the patient’s previous movements, among them visits to a local bank, shopping mall, burger stations, pharmacy and even a car wash station.
The patient also reportedly recalled having visited the wake of his in-law in Tupi town, stayed for some time in the area and even attended a church service, he said.
Dr. Alah Baby Vingno, assistant provincial health officer, said they already alerted the contacts identified by the SC-CCTS through cellphone text messages.
“The alert warned and instructed them to immediately isolate, monitor their health condition and immediately seek assistance of a doctor or the nearest barangay health station in case they manifest possible symptoms of COVID-19,” she said.
She said they are still investigating the other movements of the patient but acknowledged that there is a possibility that it is a local transmission.
As of Saturday noon, she said the patient is still in Davao City but was already scheduled for transfer to an isolation facility in Koronadal City.
She said the patient, who was found to have experienced joint pains, fever and chills as early as Aug. 1, is in stable condition and did not manifest the “typical acute respiratory illness.”
Vingno said the patient’s family members are already undergoing quarantine and will be subjected to rapid antibody testing next week.
As of Friday night, the province has recorded a total of 76 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 38 recoveries.
Aside from the latest patient, the province’s fourth confirmed case detected last May also had no travel history and considered as “locally-acquired” but was immediately contained. The rest of the cases involved LSIs and ROFs.
Tamayo admitted that he cannot say whether the province is still safe from COVID-19 due to the situation.
He urged residents to strictly follow health protocols like wearing of face masks and face shields, practicing safe physical distancing, avoiding non-essential movements and just staying home if possible.
The governor added that the local government might be forced to implement tighter control measures, among them another lockdown of the province’s borders, if the situation worsens.
South Cotabato is presentlyunder Modified General Community Quarantine. (MindaNews)