Delta variant scare: Zambo seeks moratorium on entry of returning OFWs via Tawi-Tawi

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) — The local Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 has asked Defense Secretary Lorenzana to impose a moratorium on the entry of returning Overseas Filipino Workers via the ports in Tawi-Tawi province to prevent the possible spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in the city.

Unloading of goods at the port of Bongao in Tawi-tawi on a late afternoon, with Bud Bongao peak as backdrop. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

“Negative RT-PCR test is mandatory for all those entering Zamboanga City,” Climaco, who visited on Monday the border community Licomo, said.

“The security sector, particularly the Coast Guard and those manning the city’s borders have been directed to intensify and strengthen border control with emphasis on ‘No RT-PCR, No Entry’ policy, and it will remain for as long as the COVID threat and its new variant exist,” she added.

City Health Officer Dr. Dulce Miravite, however, emphasized that as of Thursday, the city has no Delta variant case yet, but admitted the presence of the Beta variant in March as announced by DOH-Region 9.

The Delta variant was first recorded in India and the Beta variant in South Africa.

Climaco said during the virtual presser on Thursday that over 70 persons have been caught in the past days in the city’s borders and checkpoints presenting fake RT-PCR results, falsified vaccination certificates, and other documents.

Earlier, Climaco called Tawi-Tawi Gov. Yshmael Sali requesting for similar tightened security measures.

Sali said his province was implementing similar policies.

Private ports in Tawi-Tawi have been used by some vessels and small boats coming from Indonesia and Malaysia.

The city was still tracking down three of four passengers of a fish carrier from Cagayan de Oro City with plate number KAJ 8073 who boarded the vehicle in Vitali and alighted near the public market at Corcuera Street on July 16, as a fourth passenger turned out positive for COVID-19 and was placed in isolation.

The fourth passenger said the fish carrier’s driver permitted him to board as he showed pertinent documents but with pending RT-PCR result.

Climaco said health authorities in Cagayan de Oro, the regional center of Northern Mindanao, released the passenger’s RT-PCR test result upon his arrival in Zamboanga City.

As of Thursday, Northern Mindanao had recorded seven Delta variant cases, five in Cagayan de Oro, one in Gingoog City, and one in Talakag, Bukidnon.

The DOH, however, has yet to determine if the passenger was infected with the Delta variant.

“Fish carriers fall under essential services and are allowed unhampered movement across all borders,” Climaco said.

But she advised the three other passengers to turn themselves in for quarantine procedures to avoid endangering public health.

The index case of Delta variant is said to be a crew member of an international vessel plying the route to Indonesia, which has recorded several cases of said variant. (Frencie L. Carreon/MindaNews)