Local health authorities are now tracing the close contacts of Bagamanoc’s 1st COVID-19 case aboard M/V Eugene Elson during their voyage from Tabaco to Virac on June 1, 2020.
Majority of the patient’s fellow passengers on the ferry are said to be truck drivers and helpers numbering less than 20, a source told the Tribune. Four others are allegedly other Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs) bound for Virac and Bato towns.
Authorities have requested the Peñafrancia Shipping Corporation, which operates the oldest sailing Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) ship in Bicol which was built in Japan in 1965, for CCTV footage of the voyage to determine if anyone was in really close contact with the patient, the source said.
“If you happened to be on the same trip as Patient 87, kindly inform your respective Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs) for appropriate management,” the Provincial Health Office (PHO) appealed on its advisory on Facebook last Saturday, June 20, 2020.
The public appeal was made just hours after the Department of Health (DOH) Center for Health Development – Bicol issued its coronavirus update on the region’s latest and Catanduanes’ fourth confirmed COVID-19 case.
According to the PHO advisory and information gleaned by the Tribune from reliable sources, the 47-year old Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from Bagamanoc arrived in the country from Hawaii, USA, on March 19 together with his 26-year old son, also an OFW, and stayed in Caloocan City, which they stated as their home address.
On May 31, the duo traveled on a private vehicle to Tabaco City and boarded the 6:30 A.M. trip of MV Eugene Elson on June 1 for their trip to Virac.
At the port, a rented private car was already waiting for them, having been brought there by the owner. The elder OFW drove the vehicle straight to the designated quarantine facility in Bagamanoc where they have been staying until now.
On the 14th day of their quarantine on June 15, Rural Health Unit personnel administered a Rapid Test for COVID-19 antibody on the two men, with the father testing positive in both immunoglobulins IgM and IgG.
IgG is the most common antibody in humans, is present in blood and other body fluids and protects against bacteria and viral infections. On the other hand, IgM is found mainly in blood and lymph fluid and is the first antibody the human body makes when it fights a new infection.
The rapid test result prompted the RHU to get a swab from the asymptomatic OFW on June 18, with the specimen sent to the Bicol Regional Diagnostic and Referral Laboratory (BRDRL) for Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
A source told the Tribune that both father and son did not have any close contact from the time they set foot on Catanduanes soil and, after starting the quarantine, did not venture out of the facility even after the end of the 14-day period.
In a text message to the Tribune, Bagamanoc municipal health officer Dr. Anabel Pelagio said Patient #87 does not recall any instance where he was exposed to a COVID-19 case during his travel back to the country.
However, the patient did state that his work was on board a cruise ship.
All four confirmed COVID-19 cases in Catanduanes are Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs).
Patient #25, a 63-year old permanent resident of Japan, arrived in the country on March 5, traveled to the island on a passenger bus on March 7, and attended the 95th birthday party of her father.
She exhibited symptoms three days later and voluntarily sought admission at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) which discharged her on March 18, weeks before a second swab test turned positive.
She was again taken to the hospital’s isolation ward and released after she tested negative, having recovered from the disease.
The 2nd and 3rd cases were two OFWs who traveled on the same van from Makati City on June 6 and shared the same room during their overnight at the Tabaco National High School before traveling to the island the next day.
One of them, a 47-year old San Miguel pipefitter who worked in Saudi Arabia, had tested positive for the virus on June 1 but somehow managed to get on board the van chartered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The third is a 39-year old single mother from San Andres who also came from Saudi Arabia to return to her family.
Both are now in isolation facilities in their respective towns.
All or majority of the close contacts of the first three COVID-19 cases on the island have tested negative for coronavirus.
Not one of the several hundred Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs) who have either returned to the province on their own or through the Balik Happy Island Program (BHIP) have been found to be infected with coronavirus.
However, the program initiated by Governor Joseph Cua has been put on hold pending the action of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the request of the Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases Provincial Task Force (EREID-PTF) for tighter requirements for stranded locals who want to return home.
According to the governor, local chief executives are requesting that prior to the issuance of the travel authority to the LSIs, the issuing police office should secure the consent of the destination Local Government Units (LGUs).
The move is aimed at the proper management of the LSI’s travel, particularly arrangements for their 14-day quarantine, as the respective Rural Health Units are mandated to inspect their residences in Catanduanes if they are suitable for home quarantine.
It is likewise intended to give the LGUs time to prepare their Ligtas COVID-19 isolation and quarantine facilities in case the returnees’ homes are deemed to be not complying with DOH standards.