Eastern Visayas COVID-19 cases more than double as residents, overseas workers return

CORONAVIRUS disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients in the Eastern Visayas Region has shot up to 76 as of June 10 from 28 two weeks ago, most of whom are returning locally-stranded residents and overseas workers, and some beneficiaries of the government’s balik probinsya program. The provinces of Leyte and Biliran, and the cities of Ormoc and Tacloban are among the areas that registered their first cases. There are no deaths recorded while 34 have already recovered and the rest are admitted in healthcare facilities. Department of Health Regional Director Minerva P. Molon assured people that the situation is being managed well given preparations made during the almost three-month lockdown period. The region has two accredited testing laboratories, protocols for all incoming people, and isolation facilities set up by local governments. In a May 31 statement to allay worries as the COVID-19 cases started to increase, Ms. Molon said, “These past few days caused so much fear, confusion and finger pointing. This is not the time for that. Now is the time for better understanding of this health situation. For our returning residents, returning overseas Filipinos and the beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya Program, please do not waste the efforts of out local governments and our frontliners. They only need your cooperation and honesty. My appeal to the general public is to be non-judgemental and discriminating towards our confirmed cases. They are victims of circumstances and being positive is not their liking. Let’s all help together to drive away COVID-19 in the region.” In Tacloban, the regional center, Mayor Alfred S. Romualdez on Wednesday quelled rumors that the city is going on another strict lockdown. The city is already under the relaxed quarantine category with most business, including restaurants, allowed to operate with health protocols. “We are not locking down, that happening is farfetched,” Mr. Romualdez said in mixed English in Filipino. Ms. Molon also reminded people that, “To put a halt on the chains of transmission of infectious disease like COVID-19, contact tracing is important. That is why we appeal to all the returnees of this region to please give correct information. To stop the transmission of COVID-19 we have to detect, report, isolate and treat. I’d like also to reiterate the need for the public to embrace the ‘New Normal.’” — MSJ

Marawi rehabilitation will be completed by 2021 — Del Rosario

THE government’s 2021 target for completing Marawi’s rehabilitation is on track despite work disruptions due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis, according to Housing Secretary Eduardo D. Del Rosario. In a briefing on Thursday, Mr. Del Rosario, who also heads Task Force Bangon Marawi, said construction work for the rehabilitation will go on “full blast” next month, especially after President Rodrigo R. Duterte approved a P3.56 billion budget last month for the program. “I was assured by all implementing agencies that we are on the right track still despite the three months na hindi tayo nakapagtrabaho masyado (that we were not able to do much work),” he said. On May 23, 2017, local extremist groups launched a siege on Marawi, prompting an intense gun battle with government forces that lasted for almost five months. Parts of Marawi, particularly its central area, was left in ruins. The task force has been criticized for its slow implementation of the rehabilitation program, with thousands of displaced residents still living in temporary shelters. — Gillian M. Cortez