Reports claim at least 29 suspect cases in 4 towns:

Health officials silent on ‘suspect’ COVID-19 data

Reports from four of the province’s 11 towns indicate that there are at least 29 Persons Under Investigation (PUIs), contrary to the data presented by the Department of Health regional office that showed zero PUI for Catanduanes as of 5 P.M. Friday, March 20, 2020.

Reports on social media claimed that there were 11 PUIs in Bagamanoc, 10 in Viga, seven (7) in Baras and one (1) in Caramoran.

The reports did not indicate if all of the PUIs were admitted to local hospitals and it is highly likely that they are on home quarantine.

Under the DOH Decision Tool for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Assessment, PUIs are symptomatic patients with either fever greater than or equal to 38 degrees, or cough, or shortness of breath or other respiratory symptoms or diarrhea, and has either a travel history in the past 14 days to areas with issued travel restrictions or with a history of exposure.

Such PUIs are supposed to be admitted into a hospital for close observation and management, with specimens collected and sent to the Regional Institute fOR Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.

The latest DOH-CHD Bicol case tracker showed that while Catanduanes has 4,325 Persons Under Monitoring (PUM), it had no PUI admitted but with one discharged and apparently awaiting the laboratory results.

Only 67 of the PUMS have been cleared from the lists of local government units after completing the required 14-day self-quarantine period.

The decision tool requires that PUIs admitted on the basis of the tool shall only be discharged upon a negative 2019 n-CoV ARD test from RITM.

“Until then, PUIs shall be admitted in isolation even if asymptomatic,” Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

The Tribune sent a query on the matter to the Provincial Government’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) particularly the Operations cluster headed by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) last week.

PHO II Dr. Hazel Palmes replied that she was not able to read the reports but admitted that there are indeed PUIs on the island.

“Nagbabago po report araw-araw depende po kung ano date covered,” she said through a text message, adding that the reports are still pending validation by the DOH.

Various sources claim that the entire Pay Ward of the Eastern Bicol Medical Center has been set aside exclusively for COVID-19 patients.

It is also alleged that there are PUIs confined for observation at hospitals, with some of them released after showing no symptoms of the infection.

Wednesday last week, a 64-year individual from Virac who was placed under monitoring by the PHO for possible exposure died from a heart attack or acute myocardial infarction.

Local health officials listed other causes as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), uncontrolled hypertension and chronic cardiovascular disease/

Together with three other members of his family, the PUM had traveled from Pasay City on March 14 on board Our Lady of Salvation Bus No. 2025, arriving on the 8 A.M. trip of Regina Calixta at San Andres port the following day.

Virac RHU officials appealed to those who were on the same bus and ferry trips to undergo strict quarantine measures to prevent transmission of the virus in the community in case the PUM had been exposed.

Last Friday, Mar. 20, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) allowed a ferry to set sail from Tabaco City to carry 22 stranded passengers at the port since the lockdown was implemented.

Earlier, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Ensign Warren Quejencio had told local media that there was one suspected PUI among the initial 24 who wanted to return home to Catanduanes. The number of those seeking passage on the special trip ballooned to 31 and then 50 by the time the exception from the Enhanced Community Quarantine was approved.

Most of them had been transferred from the terminal area to a Tabaco school campus where they stayed for a while. By the time the go-signal was given, a screening process pruned the number to just 22, including an infant who was traveling with his mother. Those excluded were found out to be not in transit at the time they went to the port.

Upon arrival, the 22 passengers were met by local health personnel on board two ambulances who conducted health screening. No one with COVID-19 symptoms were found, with 14 who were from Virac brought to the Buenavista evacuation center for the 14-day quarantine.

The eight others were brought to their respective towns, with the four in Baras temporarily billeted at the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) building. It is claimed that the Baras PUMs complained of the lack of electricity and water, as the building has yet to be connected to basic utilities.

The 22 were among seven groups of stranded passengers to arrive in recent days, the PCG stated.

These included 12 people who arrived at the shore of Agojo, San Andres on board two motorized bancas from Tabaco City, making the perilous journey across Maqueda Channel in their desperate bid to come home.

They were intercepted by the Coast Guard personnel and policemen in San Andres and underwent health screening before being allowed to proceed to their destinations where they will be quarantined.

Last Friday at 10 A.M., three fishermen from Camarines Sur disembarked from a motorized banca at Magnesia area, with responding authorities to charge the trio for violating the health quarantine law.

Also last week, a councilor from San Andres dropped the names of Mayor Peter Cua and Councilor Alan del Valle in justifying her violation of the quarantine to fetch an in-law in Tabaco City who had come from Marikina City in Metro Manila.

Sangguniang Bayan Member Nenita Vargas, ironically the chairman of the Committee on Health, had claimed the mayor knew of her trip and argued with lawmen and PCG personnel who intercepted the motorized banca in Codon.

The Coast Guard also blocked a motorized banca from Camarines Sur which was supposed to fetch a group of students from Virac who were trapped by the travel restriction. The frail vessel was advised to come back to their point of origin, with the stranded students now being cared for by barangay officials.

Last Sunday evening (March 22), 12 more stranded passengers reportedly arrived on board a ferry carrying cargo from the mainland.

Six of the passengers were taken to their respective towns to undergo quarantine in designated facilities but the other six supposed to be kept in close monitoring at the Rural Health Unit facility in San Isidro Village were instead brought to their own homes.

According to reports, the driver was given clear instructions but could not find the RHU facility and decided to go to the main RHU at the municipal compound where the health personnel, unaware of the situation, turned the group away.

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