By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
The Provincial Health Office (PHO) in Negros Occidental is blaming the recent implementation of the uniform travel protocols as the cause of the recent spike in coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, cases in the province.
PHO head, Dr. Ernell Tumimbang, said based on their monitoring the majority of the individuals who tested positive for the virus were locally stranded individuals (LSIs), who can now enter the province with little to no travel restrictions.
Local transmissions are going up based on the PHO’s monitoring.
Tumimbang said they are affected by the minimal travel restrictions imposed among the local government units (LGUs) and the cities itself, as travelers are no longer required to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests.
He also claimed that authorities in Metro Manila are not strict in implementing the required negative RT-PCR test results 72 hours prior to travel.
He pointed out the airport authorities in Manila do swab passengers who are unable to produce a negative RT-PCR test result, although it is still a violation of Resolution No. 101 of the National Inter-Agency Task Force.
Tumimbang is also pushing that truck drivers from outside the province who are delivering essential goods should also be required to produce a negative RT-PCR test in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier, Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson wrote a letter to the NIATF requesting for a two-week suspension of inbound flights from Metro Manila to the Bacolod-Silay Airport due to a recent sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region.
The city and province of Iloilo also made the same request over the weekend, although the NIATF has denied the requests of the two LGUs. The NIATF’s decision for Negros Occidental, however, has not yet been acted up as of this writing.
In Negros Occidental, Lacson issued EO 21-18 last week requiring travelers bound to the province to present a negative RT-PCR test result not earlier than 72 hours before their travel.
Travelers should also register via the S-Pass system and download the StaySafe.PH app.
Lacson said the provincial government will also offer voluntary swabbing and quarantine at the airport and seaports.
Inbound passengers shall no longer be required to undergo facility quarantine but instead be required to undergo a seven day home quarantine upon arrival./DGB, WDJ