COVID-19

La Union links San Juan COVID-19 case to close contact of ‘Poblacion girl’

Ahikam Pasion
La Union links San Juan COVID-19 case to close contact of ‘Poblacion girl’

A COVID-19 case in San Juan, a laidback surfing town in La Union province, traces back to a close contact of a woman who breached quarantine rules in December 2021.

Inday Espina-Varona

(1st UPDATE) Other restaurants in the affected complex also temporarily close for monitoring, contact-tracing, and disinfection

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – Shops and restaurants at popular Great Northwest Philippines Travel Stop in San Juan, La Union, temporarily closed as health officials linked a COVID-19 case to a fundraiser for Siargao typhoon victims attended by two close contacts of Gwyneth Chua.

“The Department of Tourism confirmed that the close contacts of Gwyneth Chua, a confirmed case of COVID-19, declared that they were indeed in La Union and attended the benefit concert for victims of Typhoon Odette at Kermit La Union on December 29, 2021,” the provincial government said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, January 4.

It added: “To date, there is one COVID-19 confirmed positive case from the close contacts in the establishments. However, there is no confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant yet.”

Dr. Rheuel Bobis, COVID-19 focal person for the Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) in the Ilocos Region, said that the two close contacts of Chua had attended the party with the latter in Poblacion, Makati, ahead of the San Juan fundraiser.

“Hindi sila nakatira dito, dumayo lang po sila for the fundraising concert (They are not residents here, they just came here for the fundraising concert),” Bobis said in an interview on Aksyon Radyo Pangasinan.

Contact tracing

He said the CHD is coordinating with the provincial health office to determine the number of concert-goers affected by COVID-19.

“Hindi pa po tapos ang contact tracing hanggang ngayon, at patuloy pa pong vine-verify yung bilang po ng mga taong naapektuhan (Our contact tracing is still ongoing and we continue to verify the number of people affected),” Bobis said. 

The provincial government said on Tuesday that regional police and tourism officials conducted a site inspection on December 31 to determine if the establishment committed any breach of protocol, and that the management and employees of Kermit La Union underwent isolation and RT-PCR testing. 

The provincial government also said that it is in close coordination with the DOT and the San Juan municipal government regarding the incident, as well as contact tracing.

The province also asked everyone who visited Kermit from December 29 to 30 to undergo self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms of possible infection.

The provincial government warned establishments in San Juan against flouting health protocols and minimum safety standards, saying violators face fines between P20,000 to P50,000, or jail time.

Safety precaution

The benefit concert was held on the deck of the second floor of the complex of eateries and crafts stores.

A restaurant owner at the complex told Rappler that other establishments had decided to temporarily close and monitor staff “for the community’s sake.”

On New Year’s Day, the management of Kermit announced on their Instagram page, “We’ve been contact traced for possible COVID exposure (over the) last two days.”

“Anybody (who) came to our fundraising for Siargao on the 29th and yesterday. we suggest to quarantine, self monitor and test yourself in 4 to 5 days as LGU recommended to us,” it added.

On December 31, the restaurant thanked supporters of the Siargao fund-raiser, saying it raised P193,898 for the typhoon victims.

Kermit La Union’s Instagram post on December 31, 2021

The case in La Union is traced to a close contact of Chua, who had skipped mandatory quarantine after a US trip and attended a party in Poblacion, Makati. Chua and her close contacts tested positive For COVID-19.

The Philippine National Police said it would file complaints against Chua, her parents, and several personnel of the Berjaya Makati Hotel for breach of quarantine protocols. The DOT has suspended the accreditation of Berjaya Makati Hotel over the incident. – Rappler.com

Ahikam Pasion is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Fellowship.