Local health officials trying to find the “patient zero” who triggered a community transmission of the virus that led to the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in the city have expanded their contact tracing efforts to authorized persons outside residence (APOR).

Dr. Ric Panganiban, head of the City Health Office (CHO), told the City Council on Monday they have expanded their tracing efforts to APORs who may have infected those who were recently diagnosed with the disease.

Dr. Panganiban said that apart from the locally stranded individuals (LSIs), APORS are also potential carriers of the virus.

“Doon sa guidelines, unhampered sila (APOR). Sila ang hindi natin naku-quarantine. So maaari, hindi ko sinasabi ngayon na ‘yon po ‘yon, kasi may nakikita kaming konting clue na maaring doon tayo nagkaroon ng problema sa APOR — hindi doon sa LSI at saka doon sa ROF, dahil ‘yong mga ‘yon ay na po-proseso natin sa ngayon ng maayos. Naku-quarantine natin at nakakapag-conduct tayo ng mga test doon. Sa APOR ay hindi natin nagagawa,” Dr. Panganiban said.

“Sa ngayon ay hindi pa natin ma-establish kung paano tayo nagkaroon ng community transmission. ‘Yong binabanggit kanina tungkol sa LSI at ROF, sa ngayon ay masasabi namin na wala kaming masyadong problema doon. At nakikita natin na kung nagkaroon man ng community transmission, hindi ‘yon galing doon,” he added.

Dr. Mark Haggai Buenaventura, lead officer of the contact tracing team, also told the City Council that they have expanded the investigation to 12 communities including Barangays Mandaragat, Bagong Sikat, Bagong Pag-asa, San Pedro, Bancao-Bancao, Sta. Monica, Milagrosa, San Miguel, San Jose, Irawan, and Liwanag.

“Si Patient 7 (ONP nurse) meron siyang tatlong contacts na outside ng hospital, so they were swabbed naman last, last week [and] it turned out that they were all negative. Si Patient 8 (ONP IW) naman from Brgy. Maningning, no declared close contacts outside the hospital siya, so clear na rin tayo doon. Sa Patient 9, seven ‘yong declared na close contacts, five of which tested positive sa swab test,” Dr. Buenaventura said.

Among the five close contacts of Patient No. 9 that tested positive for COVID-19, the list ballooned to at least 20.

“Sa Patient 10 and 11, since isa ay bata, ‘yong isa ay matanda, none of them have close contacts outside their home, so clear na tayo sa kanila. Si Patient 12, mayroon siyang three close contacts. So two of which ay na swab na yesterday—awaiting the result. Sa Patient 13 and 14, ito ‘yong taga-Provincial Legal Office (PLO). Ito ‘yong medyo marami. Mayroon siyang 22 close contacts, three of them have developed symptoms, so they were transferred to facility natin. They were also swabbed yesterday and awaiting results na lang,” Dr. Buenaventura added.

Seventeen of the identified close contacts from the PLO have been placed under quarantine, supervised by the Provincial Health Office (PHO), while two are under home quarantine.

“So, hindi pa natin na ve-verify kasi ang usapan ata d’yan, if within the province, sila ‘yong mag-swab. So ‘di pa ako nakakahingi ng feedback if nasaan na ‘yong 17 na nasa quarantine facility ng province,” Dr. Buenaventura said.

Meanwhile, the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP), in a separate epidemiological analysis shared on Facebook Monday, concluded that the “community transmission” did not begin at the facility even if the first three recorded cases prior to the determination of community transmission are its healthcare workers.

The ONP concluded that the spread of COVID-19 began with Patient No. 3’s family members, some of whom apparently were symptomatic before all the ONP staff members underwent mandatory RT-PCR testing on June 19.

“Given the following details and facts, this conclusively indicates a community transmission rather than hospital-acquired transmission,” the ONP stated.

According to the ONP report, Patient No. 3’s symptoms manifested on June 14, which was three days earlier before Patient No. 1, who was first labeled as the “first possible case of local transmission,” manifested symptoms on June 17, and tested positive on June 20.

Patient No. 3 is also the only patient whose family members tested positive for COVID-19. Her family members underwent RT-PCR testing after she tested positive on June 22. Five out of her seven family members tested positive on June 25 after contact tracing was done.

Two of the five family members were already manifesting respiratory symptoms a day before she herself began having common colds and fever.

The ONP further stated that RT-PCR testing was done on 108 hospital personnel, all of whom turned out negative. An additional 39 rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) were conducted on doctors, nursing supervisors, and other health workers, which also turned out negative. Patient No. 1’s three family members all yielded negative, while Patient No. 2’s only family member also yielded negative results.

(With reports from Patricia Laririt and Jeshyl Guiroy)


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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.