AFTER a week, 48 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) who were stuck at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila while waiting to be transported to their provinces are still awaiting the results of their swab tests, the confirmatory process being undertaken after initially testing positive for the dreaded coronavirus disease through rapid tests.
Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo, lead convenor of the “Hatid Tulong” program, said the group remains in a quarantine facility after their rapid tests yielded positive results.
“As per guidance of the DOH (Department of Health), since they tested positive on rapid tests, they should be subjected to confirmatory test which is the swab test, and we continuously monitor them,” he told a hearing of the House committee on good government.
Bulacan Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado, panel chair, said that as comparison, the House members, senators, staff and Palace officials who took swab tests before attending President Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address last July 27 learned of the results on the same day.
Encabo said his group will coordinate with the Philippine Red Cross to find out why the results are delayed.
He asked the PRC and the DOH to prioritize the LSIs because “the longer they stay in the quarantine facility, the more it becomes traumatic on their part and they become psychologically disturbed.”
Dr. Corazon Flores, regional director of the Department of Health in Metro Manila, said the 48 LSIs did not undergo swab tests all on the same day.
“The 48 weren’t swab-tested on the same day. Some of them took the test maybe less than four days ago,” she said.
The LSIs gathered at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex to avail themselves of the government’s Hatid Tulong Program so they could return to their provinces. The number of people who came for the program, however, was too many and some of them were forced to sleep in the streets outside the complex.
Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor urged the Department of Health to make public the names of those who tested positive for COVID-19, saying it would make contract tracing easier.
“This is not to shame them. It is not to publicly ridicule them and we are not discriminating against them but releasing their names will help people they interacted with and talked to,” he told the same hearing.
But Dr. Corazon Flores, National Capital Region director of DOH, said the names of those who tested positive are given only to contact tracers to avoid violating the Data Privacy Law.
Defensor insisted that releasing the names of the individuals will make it easier for the contact tracers to know their whereabouts.
P12M AID TO LSIs
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided at least P12.137 million worth of aid to more than 5,000 local stranded individuals who were sent back to their provinces under the government’s Hatid Tulong program in late July.
The DSWD said it provided a P2,000 financial aid, under the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), to the LSIs who were sent home during the July 25 to 29 send-off at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, while those with children were given P3,000.
The agency added that upon arriving at their respective provinces, the LSIs were also provided with hot meals and family food packs and additional interventions through the DSWD Field Offices in the regions.
During the stay of the LSIs at temporarily shelters in Taguig City, Manila, and Bulacan, the DSWD also provided them with sleeping and hygiene kits.
A total of 5,039 LSIs were sent home during the last Hatid Tulong send-off to CARAGA, Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions I (Ilocos), II (Cagayan Valley), III (Central Luzon), V (Bicol), VI Western Visayas), and VIII (Eastern Visayas) and Zamboanga City.
The government is planning to send off LSIs per region instead of doing a single, unified send off to multiple regions simultaneously. – With Jocelyn Montemayor