BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
All travelers entering airports and seaports of Negros Occidental are again being required by the provincial government to undergo mandatory swabbing and Covid-19 RT-PCR testing, regardless of destination, and to be quarantined until their negative results are released by the Department of Health accredited molecular laboratories.
This was contained in an Executive Order No. 21-18-A, Series of 2021, issued yesterday by Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who also placed Negros Occidental under the Modified General Community Quarantine status.
In his executive order, Lacson said that the provincial government will conduct the Covid-19 swab tests and quarantine for free.
The implementation of the protocols of the province came in the wake of the surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, that was 58 last month, to 318 as of March 29, excluding the 198 active cases in Bacolod.
Lacson also reported that the positivity rate at the Teresita Lopez Jalandoni Provincial Hospital molecular laboratory in Silay City, rose from 3.08 percent to 22.73 percent.
At the same time, the number of positive cases isolated in quarantine facilities increased from 22 to 111 individuals, he added.
Lacson has issued the EO, despite an order also from the National Inter Agency Task Force that Covid-19 testing and quarantine are no longer mandatory, unless being required by concerned local government units.
The proliferation also of fake negative RT-PCR results, being used by some Negrenses in returning home, as required from them, has alarmed the provincial government of Negros Occidental.
Lacson justified the revival of the old protocol previously implemented by the provincial government, which had been successful in preventing the spread of the virus in Negros Occidental.
He said that the EO shall take effect April 1, without prejudice to the review by the Department of Interior and Local Government, NIATF- Emerging Infectious Diseases, and the Regional IATF-EID.
“We will hear from them, if they say, we are violating resolution 101 of NIATF,” Lacson said. He, however, pointed out that they will still comply with the NIATF resolution of requiring inbound travelers to register with the S-Pass and StaySafe apps system.
As stipulated in the executive order, Government Authorized Persons Outside Residence shall not be required to undergo mandatory testing, and or quarantine protocols, provided that they comply with the requirements set forth under the IATF-EID Resolution No. 98-A Series of 2021.
It also provides further that all government APOR are strongly encouraged to voluntarily submit to RT-PCR testing and quarantine, considering that APORs are carriers of Covid-19, based on records of the Provincial Incident Management Team
As to procedure at airports, one flight per week per airline company for Bacolod-Cebu-Bacolod, and two flights per week for Manila-Bacolod-Manila, with only 199 passengers allowed per flight, the EO states.
It added that only 150 passengers will be allowed per day for each shipping company, while public transportation is prohibited, except for the transport of APORs, while LGU (local government unit) destination shall facilitate transportation for non APOR passengers.
Heightened patrol of seaports and borders are being encouraged to check for possible illegal crossing of persons from sources of infection, to the borders of Negros Occidental.
The Department of Interior and Local Government earlier warned local government units that it will issue a show cause order to them, if they will not comply with the NIATF resolution 101.
If ever they do send a notice of non-conformity to Resolution 101, we will just reply, Lacson said.
The Association of Chief Executives of Negros Occidental chaired by Victorias City Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca also passed a resolution, expressing its support to the move of Lacson to revert back to the old protocol.
Lacson also said that he got reports that private hospitals are now full of Covid-19 patients. But he said the occupancy rate of the different Covid-19 quarantine centers seems okay, as of this time, including also the public hospitals.*