First District Rep. Edgar Chatto expressed apprehension over the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) decision to waive the need for locally stranded individuals (LSI) to undergo a rapid antibody test or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to check for possible coronavirus disease (COVID) 19 infection.
The new policy meant that LSIs will no longer be mandated to undergo COVID-19 testing before they are allowed to travel to their home provinces as announced by DILG Undersecretary Jonatahan Malaya.
Chatto, in an interview over station dyRD’s “Inyong Alagad” program on Wednesday, said he did “not feel comfortable” with the new guideline as it may hamper Bohol’s efforts to keep the province free from a COVID-19 outbreak.
“Wa ko mahiluna na naminaw ni USec Malaya na mao na iyang gisulti, nahibalo man ta na dinhi sa Bohol ang atong provincial government led by the governor, our city and municipal government including the barangays are really working hard to keep Bohol COVID-free,” said Chatto.
According to Chatto, the DILG now requires a medical certificate to prove that the LSIs do not have symptoms of COVID-19 and that they underwent home or facility quarantine. Another requirement is a travel authority from the Philippine National Police.
Noticeably missing was the requirement of a negative PCR or rapid test result.
Chatto, a veteran legislator and the province’s immediate former governor, said that he tried to confirm the legitimacy of the new directive through a text message to DILG Sec. Edgardo Año as he “could not believe” that the department would order such a policy.
Año replied that “for LSIs, the testing is not required unless he has symptoms or has been exposed to a COVID-positive person,” Chatto said as he quoted the Cabinet member’s text message.
“These people have been on lockdown for two months already. Pagdating sa destination…the receiving LGU will test them using rapid antibody test or put them under 14-day home quarantine or in isolation facility,” Chatto further quoted Año.
According to Chatto, the new order is now the prevailing guideline from the DILG for local government units to follow, but the issue is set to be tackled at the House of Representatives.
The province could also establish its own testing centers in Cebu City and Manila, particularly in the ports and airports, for health authorities to be able to conduct pre-travel tests on LSIs, but this initiative will still have to go through the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Chatto also called on local government units to prepare their quarantine facilities in anticipation of the deluge of LSIs.
Bohol currently has zero active COVID-19 cases in the island but earlier, one repatriated OFW tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine in the province.
He was asymptomatic and recovered without medical intervention while at a quarantine facility in Tagbilaran City. After testing negative in a PCR test, he was allowed to go home.
Meanwhile, two medical technologists and one doctor who were sent by the Governor Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital for a training in Cebu City are currently infected with the virus but are quarantined in the COVID-stricken city, not in Bohol. (with R. Tutas)