At least four returning Palawan residents who arrived on Friday (June 5) via a chartered 2Go vessel carrying a total of 276 passengers have tested reactive to rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) and will be swabbed for probable COVID-19 infection.
Three of the identified LSIs are from Puerto Princesa City and one from San Vicente which had 12 LSIs.
“Meron isa na nag-positive [sa RDT] at na-swab na din. Inaasahan natin na bukas ay may result na,” said Dr. Mercy Grace Pablico, municipal health officer (MHO).
The San Vicente LSIs have been quarantined in isolation tents set up by the local government unit at the covered gym in Barangay New Agutaya.
One COVID-19 positive case
On Tuesday night, city health authorities announced that one of the passengers was confirmed to be COVID-19 positive.
The male patient, according to incident commander Dr. Dean Palanca, was part of the group that disembarked at the Puerto Princesa Port (PPP) on June 5 along with 276 other locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“Noong June 5 nakarating sila dito sa Puerto Princesa at humigit kumulang isang daang katao na mga LSI at isa siya sa nag-positibo sa COVID-19 virus,” Palanca said during the City Information Office’s (CIO) live press briefing late Tuesday.
Palanca said that the COVID-19 patient was isolated in “one of the city facilities”. Contact tracing, as part of the protocol for confirmed cases, was set to start on Wednesday.
The group of returning individuals who arrived on June 5 totaled 276, 171 of whom were from different municipalities in Palawan, and 105 were city residents.
Upon their arrival, three of the city residents were reactive to the rapid diagnostic test (RDT).
The residents of municipalities were ferried by re-arranged vehicles organized by their respective local government units.
A report received by Palawan News from Sofronio Espanola indicated that all of its 13 LSIs on the same boat have already passed the RDT tests conducted by its municipal health office.
“Naka-quarantine [sila] sa new evacuation center ng ating bayan,” said Dr. Rhodora B. Tingson.
Tingson said their LSIs are set to undergo another series of RDT on Friday (June 12), and will be sent home if found nonreactive.
Social distancing on mercy boat
Some of the LSIs aboard the mercy boat of 276 LSI passengers aboard 2GO have expressed concern on the report that one of their co-passengers had turned out to be COVID-19 positive.
In interviews with Palawan News, several passengers claimed there was no policy imposed during their return voyage restricting physical contact among the passengers.
Palawan News was furnished photos of some of the passengers intermingling with each other on the boat’s deck during the trip.
“Hindi kami sinabihan ng mga bawal sa loob ng barko. Worried din kami kasi hindi namin alam kung nakasalamuha namin ‘yong nag-positive kasi lumabas din kami ng kuwarto,” an LSI told Palawan News.
Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson Commordor Armando Balilo, in a message reply to a Palawan News inquiry, said that enforcing regulations on social distancing is an obligation of the carrier.
“Dapat may health protocol yong 2Go na sarili to be complemented by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). Hindi ko lang alam ‘yong details kung paano ginagawa in details ng mga units,” said PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo.
“They have to be reminded. BOQ handles protocol policy. But we can tell management also. Please record anything in violation of the health protocol as provided by IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force),” Balilo added.
(With reports from Celeste Anna Formoso, Alex Baaco, and Ruil Alabi)