COVID-19 fears: Negros Oriental doctor raises alarm over migration of sick people from Cebu town
DUMAGUETE CITY—Persons exhibiting influenza-like illness, which the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention defined as those with fever of at least 38-degree Celsius, sore throat or cough, have been crossing over from Badian, a town in southern Cebu province, into Negros Oriental.
The migration is worsening overcrowding in hospitals here, according to officials.
Dr. Liland Zoila Bustamante-Estacion, assistant Negros Oriental health officer, told members of the provincial board on Friday (April 3) that she learned about the migration of sick people from Badian while checking why there was a sudden increase in the number of PUI and PUM in local hospitals.
PUI is the term health officials use for persons showing symptoms of COVID-19 while PUM are persons with no symptoms but who had travelled to infected places or come into contact with carriers.
Estacion, who also holds the title incident commander of COVID-19 Task Force Negros Oriental, said that as of Friday the province had 6,499 PUI and PUM.
“This increased by 100,” Estacion said. “I was surprised why there would be an increase,” she said.
She quoted two municipal health officers, whom she did not identify, as saying that “every night, there are new arrivals from Badian.”
Badian is a fourth class municipality more than 100 km from Cebu City which has turned to tourism as a source of livelihood, other than fishing and agriculture, for its people.
Estacion said the migration of sick people from Badian was a problem for Negros Oriental because it was adding to the number of PUI and PUM that the province’s health care system has to deal with.
She said she had asked the Coast Guard to “monitor the coastlines” but was told that the Coast Guard was undermanned.
Suggestions were made to tap anti-illegal fishing patrols, called Bantay Dagat, of the different towns to stop the entry of the sick into the province.
But Adrian Sedillo, head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said he would first verify Estacion’s report because he doesn’t have first hand knowledge about migration of sick people from Badian.
Mark Macias, Negros Oriental vice governor, said authorities should watch the province’s coastline.
He said to finance coastal patrols, the provincial government could use money from what he said was a Quick Response Fund (QRF).
QRF, according to the Department of Budget and Management, are built-in budgetary allocations, or standby funds, which could be used for disaster response.
“The people will continue to be anxious if PUI will continue to be smuggled into Negros Oriental from Cebu,” the vice governor said.
Macias said that some cargo trucks bound for the province had been found to be smuggling people. This forced the company that runs roll-on, roll-off operations in Negros Oriental to closely inspect every cargo truck that is loaded on its barges, the vice governor said.
Only two people are allowed on cargo trucks—the driver and his helper.
At a meeting of the task force last Thursday (April 2), Col. Julian Entoma, provincial police chief, said some people, who were being smuggled into the province in trucks, claimed to be relatives of the driver.
To stop this, Entoma said police would recommend penalties for drivers who would smuggle people in their trucks.
Edited by TSB
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