8-9 stranded individuals at Rizal Memorial stadium suspected to have COVID-19

8-9 stranded individuals at Rizal Memorial stadium suspected to have COVID-19
Thousands of locally stranded individuals, who are beneficiaries of the second batch of the Hatid Tulong program, are surrounded by their belongings as they spend the night on the bleachers of the baseball stadium of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila on Friday,July 24..
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Eight to nine of the locally stranded individuals (LSIs) crammed at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex last weekend are suspected to have COVID-19, amid concerns of failure to impose physical distancing in the venue.

In an interview with ANC on Monday morning, Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo said out of the nearly 4,000 of the LSIs, “eight to nine persons were tested positive of the rapid tests.”

Encabo, lead convenor of the government’s “Hatid Tulong” program, also said that those who tested positive were immediately isolated and administered a confirmatory swab test.

If the individual tested positive, he or she will be brought to an isolation facility. If negative on the confirmatory test, they will be allowed to travel back home.

The Philippine Coast Guard said Sunday that they assigned 25 of their medical technologists to administer rapid COVID-19 tests to the LSISs. Encabo said they have eight stations, manned by doctors, nurses and medical technologists for the stranded individuals.

Those who have had close interaction with them were also recorded and the local government units where they will be sent off are notified, Encabo said. They will also be subjected to a confirmatory swab test and undergo 14-day quarantine, he added.

Thousands of Filipinos wanting to go back to their home provinces availed of the government’s “Hatid Tulong” program. The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was converted into a venue to house the LSIs while they waited for their transport back home. Photos of the LSIs cramped at the stadium’s bleachers, making it impossible to observe physical distancing, made rounds last weekend.

‘It’s the lesser evil’

Encabo admitted that they had to choose the “lesser evil” when they brought the thousands of LSIs  inside the stadium. He said the Technical Working Group decided to transfer the LSIs inside the stadium when they noticed that they had to queue under the sun and heavy rains were about to fall.

“Since we saw it, we cannot just take it lightly in our part... The moment we noticed that the rain is about to fall, we invited them inside the stadium t take refuge and shelter,” Encabo said.

“Because of unavoidable circumstances, it’s a decision of choosing lesser evil and we really have to give them the shelter and temporary refuge,” he added.

“That’s the least that we could do, somehow that’s the best that we could offer because we have to protect these LSIs on the heavy downpour and at the same time he intense heat of the sun while waiting outside,” Encabo also said.

He however said that hours after the stranded individuals were invited inside the stadium, they transferred some of them to the other stadium so physical distancing may be observed.

Encabo said 3,600 LSIs were brought home on Sunday, and they aim to transport thousand others on Monday. — Kristine Joy Patag



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