BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
There is no stopping the provincial government of Negros Occidental in requiring returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers to undergo swab testing upon their arrival, following confirmation that the UK variant of Covid-19 is already in the Philippines.
While there were few incidents of non-cooperation of some Authorized Persons Outside Residence, who claimed to be exempted from being swabbed, “in general, they cooperate,” Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said.
ROFs and OFWs are no longer subjected to local health protocols by receiving local government units, as stated in the Operational Guidelines on the Management of ROFs of the national Inter-Agency Task Force.
Despite this, Lacson said they will never stop requiring the swab testing, adding that it is for free.
LOCAL TESTS REQUIRED
“Never mind if they had a test in Manila. We’ll just require them and I hope they will cooperate,” Lacson said.
There are now four ROFs suspected of having the UK variant, Lacson said.
The four included a couple from Pontevedra, Negros Occidental, who came from the United Kingdom and tested positive for Covid on their arrival at the Bacolod-Silay Airport on Jan. 16. The two others, from Talisay and Bago cities, came from the US Virgin Islands and Egypt, respectively.
Lacson said the Pontevedra couple was again swabbed because the test kits that were initially used were for locally stranded individuals. He earlier ordered the Provincial Legal Office to take legal action against the couple for misdeclaration, by claiming that they were LSIs.
The samples taken from the four Negrense ROFs were sent to the Philippine Genome Center in Manila yesterday for validation, and Lacson said he expects the results to be known on Wednesday.
The couple is now on strict home quarantine, while the two others are at the Provincial Healing Center in EB Magalona.
Zeaphard Caelian, head of the Humanitarian Response Team of the provincial IATF, advised the couple to follow the protocols implemented by the IATF of their town, and to wait until the results of their latest samples are released. The B117 strain, or the UK variant, appears to spread more easily, some data showed that it spreads up to 70 percent faster, probably due to a mutation on how the virus enters the human cells, reports said.*