IATF commits to visit Cebu, study its COVID response

By: Morexette Marie B. Erram - Multimedia Reporter - CDN Digital | June 17,2021 - 05:38 PM
IATF at House hearing on OFWs plight. In photo is Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health in Central Visayas chief pathologist, who attended virtually the House hearing on OFWs plight, where IATF officials were also present. | screen grab

Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Department of Health in Central Visayas chief pathologist, attends virtually the House hearing on OFWs plight, where IATF officials are also present. | screen grab

CEBU CITY, Philippines — Members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID or IATF) has pledged to visit and study Cebu’s response towards COVID-19 soon. 

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs convened on Thursday, June 17 to discuss the plight of overseas Filipino workers.

In particular, the swabbing and testing policies being implemented for Returning Overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

“Our Secretary  has committed to visiting Region 7 and Cebu this week or next week to see first hand these best practices,” said Usec. Alethea de Guzman, director of the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH), who represented Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. 

Also present in the hearing of the lower chamber of Congress were Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, and DOH – Central Visayas (DOH-7) chief pathologist, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, who presented data on Cebu’s COVID-19 situation. 

The hearing is still ongoing as of this writing.

Quarantine, Not Swab Test 

During the first half of the virtual hearing, Loreche told Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) Rep. Raymond Democrito Mendoza, who chairs the committee, that the IATF still recommended for Cebu to abide with their protocols.

Loreche added that they had already received the ‘critique’ from the IATF, where Duque sits as chairperson, on Cebu’s response towards COVID-19. 

De Guzman, for their part, responded by saying medical experts from IATF are ‘deeply concerned’ on the province’s quarantine methods, and not so much on the testing and swabbing policies. 

She also pointed out that the anti-COVID task force did not want other provinces in the country to experience what Metro Manila suffered last March when it was reverted to the strictest form of community quarantine due to appearing ‘variants of concerns’.

But Loreche replied by saying “That’s the way of the virus. Let us not put in all of these stringent and suffocating rules because we are afraid to think outside of the box.” 

Cebu’s Swab-Upon-Arrival policy was first introduced in March as Executive Order (EO) No. 17 then in May officially became law after the Provincial Board passed Provincial Ordinance No. 2021 – 04.

It swayed away from the whole-of-nation swabbing policy being mandated by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF). 

Under IATF’s guidelines, ROFs and OFWs will have to complete the required 14-day quarantine rule, in which 10 days will be in designated quarantine facilities or hotel rooms, and the remaining four days in their respective houses. 

They will only be subjected for a swab test on the seventh day since their arrival.

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TAGS: Cebu‬, COVID-19, De Guzman, House hearing, House of Representatives' Committee on Overseas Worlers Affairs, IATF, Loreche

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