Gov't to swab test stranded Filipinos before return trips to provinces

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 04:58 PM

MANILA-- All stranded Filipinos will be subject to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) swab tests before they are transported to their home provinces, Malacañang said Friday as the government sought to control the local transmission of the virus.

The government has gained the capacity to swab test all stranded Filipinos following the arrival of over 1 million COVID-19 test kits, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said.

"Lahat na po ngayon nang uuwi sa probinsiya eh bibigyan natin ng PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test bago sila pauwiin," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(Everyone that will be sent home to the provinces will be subject to PCR testing first.)

"Babalangkasin po kung paano talaga mabibigyan ng PCR test ang mga locally stranded individuals," he added.

(We will study how to give PCR tests to locally stranded individuals.)

The policy will take effect after Friday's last batch of returning stranded individuals bound for Bacolod, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro, Roque said. The Palace appealed to receiving local government units to test the returnees for coronavirus.

"Ito na po siguro ang huling grupo ng LSIs na pauuwiin nang hindi po binibigyan muna ng PCR test," Roque said.

(This is probably the last batch of stranded individuals that will be sent home without PCR test.)

Previously, the government only required stranded individuals to present a travel authority and medical certificate to return to their home provinces.

But the policy was later seen as a gap in controlling the transmission of the virus after some local government units linked the rising cases of COVID-19 cases in provinces to the return of stranded Filipinos, saying most of them were not tested for the virus before being sent home.

On Thursday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government suspended for 14 days return trips of stranded individuals to Eastern Visayas since quarantine facilities in the region could no longer accommodate more people.

The Department of Health has identified Cebu island and parts of Eastern Visayas as new hotspots of the COVID-19 outbreak as cases of the disease continued to rise in these areas. 

The Philippines as of June 25 has confirmed 33,069 COVID-19 cases. The figure includes 1,212 deaths and 8,910 recoveries.