Majority of COVID-19 cases in W. Visayas involve returning OFWs, LSIs

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 16 2020 07:20 PM | Updated as of Jul 16 2020 09:32 PM

MANILA — A health official on Thursday said that majority of the COVID-19 cases in Western Visayas involve returning overseas Filipinos and locally-stranded individuals (LSIs).

“As of July 15, 2020, we have a total of 688 cases here in Region 6. 510 or 74% of these cases ay nanggaling po sa mga grupo ng ating returning OFWs at LSIs (are from groups of returning OFWs and LSIs),” said Dr. Mary Jane Roches Juanico of the Department of Health (DOH) Western Visayas Center for Health Development (CHD) during a televised briefing.

Juanico, who is the head of the Infectious Disease and Environmental, Occupational Health Section of the regional DOH office, said that majority or 89% of the cases are asymptomatic.

Of the total number of cases, many are in the age range of 21 to 30 years old, the youngest being 2 months old and the oldest, 94 years old.

More than half are still on quarantine.

In total, there are 430 active cases, while 36% or 246 have already recovered. Twelve, or 1.7%, have died.

Juanico said there are 4 testing laboratories in the region, of which, three are operated by government.

While they are able to run a total of 300 to 800 samples a day, the average turnaround time for tests is at 3 to 10 days.

Iloilo has the largest number of returning OFWs, but Negros Occidental has the most number of infected OFWs.

There are a total of 9,026 returning OFWs in Western Visayas, but only 1.3% or 123 of them were infected with COVID-19.

For locally stranded individuals, 387 or 1.6% of the 24,207 tested positive for the disease upon their return in the region.

As early as June, the ABS-CBN Investigation and Research Group saw a spike in COVID-19 cases in provinces that used to have zero active cases. Some have been attributed to the government’s Balik Probinsya program, especially after one beneficiary tested positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Leyte in Region 8.

Juanico said they have now become strict in handling returning residents.

“Sa kasalukuyan po, here in Western Visayas, ang ating ginagawa dito ay nagte-test tayo ng mga dumarating na locally stranded individuals dahil po napag-alaman namin na ang minimum criteria lamang para makauwi sila ay medical certificate and travel authority. So, hindi po lahat sa kanila ay nakapag-test din po,” she said.

(Currently, here in Western Visayas, what we do is we test arriving locally stranded individuals because we learned that the minimum criteria for them to return are a medical certificate and travel authority. So, not all of them have been tested.)

Juanico said that if there is no evidence that they tested negative or that they underwent quarantine at their place of origin, they will have to undergo testing and quarantine at the local treatment facility before being reintegrated with their family.

She said the COVID beds and facilities in the region is still in the “safe zone” or are not yet overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, there are 92 health workers in the region who have been infected with COVID 19 — 52 in the medical profession and 40 are non-medical staff.