BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The Provincial Incident Management Team has reported a surge of Covid-19 cases in Negros Occidental, from 58 in February to 232 as of March 18.
Don Salvador Benedicto and Candoni remain Covid-free with zero active cases, while La Carlota has the highest number of active cases at 28, followed by San Carlos City with 24, PIMT reports showed.
Among the 232 total active cases, 157 are Locally Stranded Individuals (LSIs), 26 are Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs), and five are Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs), Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz said.
Diaz attributed the increase of active cases to voluntary RT-PCR testing and quarantine offered by the provincial government of Negros Occidental to returning Negrenses upon arrival at the airport or seaports.
Based on the resolution issued by the National Inter Agency Task Force, Negros Occidental is no longer allowed to subject travelers to a RT-PCR testing and quarantine upon entering the province.
This prompted Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson to issue an executive order on March 13 requiring travelers to secure negative RT-PCR test results, 72 hours prior to their arrival in the province, and registration with S-Pass and StaySafe apps systems while enjoining local government units to comply with NIATF resolution.
During the four-day transition period, Diaz said they eased up the implementation of the governor’s executive order for humanitarian considerations due to the limited time for passengers to secure negative RT-PCR test results.
On March 18, he said, they started implementing the latest EO from Lacson, stressing that they will no longer allow travelers entering the province without a negative RT-PCR test results.
“We still have to be very careful because of the spike in Manila and other parts of Luzon,” Diaz said, referring to Covid-19 active cases.
However, residents of Western Visayas travelling within the region are not covered by the requirements.
Western Visayas officials also want to require the APORs to present negative RT- PCR test results, as they noted that they have always been a privileged group, compared to other travelers.
Diaz said the provincial government cannot afford to place LGUs under lockdown, both financially and mentally, as he described it as “draining” one year after since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country.
With the surge of Covid-19 active cases in Manila and Cebu, a travel moratorium from Manila and other areas to Negros Occidental, is now being entertained by the provincial government, if its quarantine facilities are full of Covid-19 positive occupants, and unmanageable, like what happened last year.
“If we reach 80 percent occupancy of quarantine facilities, we will be slowing down in accepting travelers returning to the province,” Diaz said.
“We also don’t want our hospitals to be filled with moderate and serious cases of Covid-19”, he added, noting that Manila hospitals are now on the brink of reaching their capacities, he said.
“We will not allow that to happen in Negros Occidental,” Diaz stressed.
LAND TRIPS OUTSIDE NEGROS OCC
Diaz said he will meet again with representatives of the Vallacar Transit Incorporated (VTI) that manages the Ceres Liner passengers, on their requests to resume operations outside Negros Occidental.
VTI wants to resume trips to Negros Oriental, Cebu and Zamboanga, with a total of 16 trips.
But Diaz said the request to operate 16 units of buses, maybe too much, adding that even airline and shipping companies resumed operations on a “calibrated manner”.*