121 Albay residents who escaped Manila are stranded at the border

Rhadyz B. Barcia

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121 Albay residents who escaped Manila are stranded at the border

Alecs Ongcal

(UPDATED) Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara closes the border to returning residents, a decision that he says is based on consultations with the 18 mayors of the province


LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) — Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara put his foot down on residents working in Metro Manila who were still trying to return to the province weeks after lockdown measures were put in place. 

Up to 121 Albay residents were prevented at the border on Sunday, March 29, and were left stranded at Del Gallego town in adjacent Camarines Sur. 

“To avoid and lessen the possible spread of coronavirus disease we will no longer fetch these new salvos of stranded Albayanos. We will just coordinate with the governor of Camarines Sur to provide them temporary shelter to house them in school and be given food,” Bichara said in a press briefing on Tuesday, March 31.

Earlier, over 300 residents were allowed to enter the province for humanitarian reasons. Up to 118 residents trapped in Manila were “rescued” on Friday, March 27, following 160 people on March 21 and 56 others on March 23.

Rescued residents were transported from Del Gallego town and were allowed to enter the province out of humanitarian reasons.

Bichara said Friday’s rescue was the last. He has since ordered the strict implementation of lockdown measures in the province, based on consultation with all 18 mayors in the province.

Bichara said the mayors decided to disallow the return of Albay residents from Metro Manila, the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in the country, to stem the spread of the disease. 

“In as much as I would like to rescue them, I do not want to sacrifice the welfare of the majority who are now scared of Covid-19 infection that may be brought by these people from Manila,” Bichara said.

Albay province recorded 3 cases of coronavirus. Two are residents from Guinobatan and Bacacay towns. The 3rd is an American staying in  Legazpi City.

As the province reported confirmed cases of the disease, Bishop Joel “Bong” Z. Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi asked the IATF-Bicol to designate facilities to isolate the patients.

“We, the bishop and clergy of the Diocese of Legazpi echoing the sentiments of many of our people, are very much alared and disheartened by the way COVID-19 cases (three of them so far) that have been confirmed in the province of Albay,” Baylon said in a statement.

The call came after local health officials sent home confirmed cases of coronavirus. They were instructed to undergo self-quarantine, but residents feared the move will increase the likelihood of local transmission. 

Three persons were under investigation for the disease. The province also recorded a high of 20,013 people under monitoring in the early weeks, but 5,631 of them have completed the 14-day quarantine without showing symptoms.  

The province declared a state of calamity due to coronavirus on March 17. All residents who returned from Manila were required to undergo 14-day isolation. – Rappler.com

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