MANILA - Eight to 9 stranded individuals at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex tested positive for COVID-19 using rapid antibody tests, an official said Monday, as the public criticized the lack of physical distancing at the venue over the weekend.
Some 6,000 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) trooped to the stadium to avail of government's free transportation assistance to their home provinces through the "Hatid Tulong" program, according to Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo.
Persons who tested positive for the coronavirus in rapid tests were immediately isolated and underwent confirmatory tests and their close contacts were put into record and flagged to receiving local governments, Encabo said.
If the LSIs test positive in the confirmatory swab test, they will be brought to a quarantine facility. If their results turn out negative, they will be allowed to travel based on the assessment of doctors, Encabo added.
Those who were in close contact, meantime, will undergo swab tests and a 14-day quarantine in their home province.
The technical working group handling the program convened an emergency meeting Sunday and "committed" that the "approach and preparations should be somehow improved," according to the Assistant Secretary.
"As being concurred by officials of the different agencies, we plan to come out with a cluster sendoff based on the request coming from the local chief executive," Encabo said.
"Hopefully with the assessment and evaluation we conducted were very confident that we could make it better and meet the expectations of the public as well as other entities."
Government chose the "lesser of evil" when it allowed throngs of stranded individuals seeking shelter from heavy rain and intense heat at the s complex last Friday, Encabo earlier said.
"Because of the avoidable circumstances, it’s a decision between choosing the lesser evil and we really have to give them the shelter and temporary refuge inside the stadium," he told ANC.
Government was able to so far send off some 4,000 LSIs with the remaining targeted to be brought home later Monday, he added.
Vice President Leni Robredo said Sunday the program could have been better planned, with the stranded individuals being sent off in groups.
"Hindi kasalanan ng tao. Hindi kasalanan ng tao kasi maraming desperate makauwi. Pero sana man lang, ginawan ng plano...kahit maliit iyong opisina namin, kahit paano iyong aming napauwi na 1,800-plus, so far wala pa doong nag-positive, kasi iyong aming protocols ay maayos," she said.
(It's not the fault of the people because many are desperate to go home. Authorities should have planned it better. Our office, despite being small, managed to return home some 1,800 persons of whom no one has tested positive for the virus yet because of our orderly protocols.)
"Noong nakita ko iyong mga pictures noong isang gabi pa, talagang nanlumo ako na grabe iyong ine-exert natin na effort sa social distancing, pero tayo mismo iyong violators. Mangyayari at mangyayari ito kung hindi maayos iyong pagplano. Walang excuse eh."
(When I saw the pictures the other night I was saddened because we exert so much effort in enforcing social distancing but we're also the violators. This will surely happen when there's a lack of planning. There's no excuse.)
The Philippines as of Sunday reported 80,448 cases of COVID-19, with 26,110 recoveries and 1,932 deaths.