(Far left) City IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca; (far right) city IMT safety officer Dr. Ruffia Mae Atencio in a live briefing by the City Information Office (CIO).

Puerto Princesa City health officials admitted they are having difficulty identifying the close contacts of COVID-positive patients because of some patients’ refusal to fully and truthfully disclose their health status or persons they have interacted with.

The city Incident Management Team (IMT) also reminded authorized persons outside residence (APORs) to coordinate their entry into the province through the city airport in order to minimize the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Ruffia Mae Atencio, city IMT safety officer, in a live briefing Monday, warned that many suspect cases remain untested and may pose a threat to the public because of patients’ failure to disclose adequate information.

“The only thing that is limiting contact tracing is [lack of] cooperation because most of these individuals are not cooperating. I am sorry to say that, but some are really not cooperating. Some are not reporting, some resistant,” she said.

Atencio added that the city has been considerate of their refusal to be tested, even foregoing the filing of complaints against these individuals, such as Republic Act (RA) 11332 or the law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases. However, she appealed to the public to be as cooperative as possible if they are identified to be probable or suspect cases because contact tracing needs to be done within 24 hours and that RT-PCR cartridges are limited.

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And kung titingnan, wala pa tayong ginamitan ng RA 11332 for now because ganoon ka-considerate ang lungsod, hindi gaya ng ibang lugar. Pero lahat ng right natin may obligations na counterpart. So instead na pumalag, eh tayo rin naman in the end ang susuko in terms of disclosing and reporting our close contacts, sana ay mas maaga pa ay makipag-cooperate na rin tayo dahil napakahirap ng trabaho ng contact tracing team. Wala tayong luxury of time,” she added.

Dr. Dean Palanca, city IMT chief, also stated in the briefing that APORs must still properly coordinate their travels even if they have been cleared by the provincial government. On March 7, two APORs tested positive and around 19 people who had interacted with one of them all tested positive in the coming days. Last Saturday (March 27), an employee of the Iwahig Corrections Facility, who traveled from Metro Manila on the same day, tested positive upon their arrival. This prompted the facility to undergo “modified quarantine.”

“Nagkataon ay sila ay nakipag-coordinate sa province at doon sila sumakay sa biyahe ng province pero sila ay papasok ng Puerto Princesa. In fact, hindi sila nagpa-RT-PCR, naging to-follow na lang. Kaya pagdating nila rito, ayon positive sila,” said Palanca.

Aside from giving reminders to follow protocols and cooperate in contact tracing efforts, Atencio also gave updates on the city’s vaccination program. She stated that most medical frontliners in the city have already been vaccinated and that the remaining target recipients are senior citizens.

She also stated that there is still no assured date on the arrival of the city’s purchased vaccines, which have already been ordered and paid for by the city government early in the year.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.