14 students from Cebu City who arrived in Mindanao test positive for coronavirus

Bobby Lagsa, Ryan Macasero

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14 students from Cebu City who arrived in Mindanao test positive for coronavirus


(UPDATED) Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella says his office will investigate how the students got the virus and why they were allowed to leave

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – Fourteen students who are in quarantine here and Maguindanao province after arriving from Cebu City tested positive for the coronavirus.

The students were stranded in Cebu City since January and were only able to return home when they availed of the national government’s program to take them back.

The first 12 who were positive for the virus arrived on May 16, and were placed in isolation upon reaching Maguindanao, which is part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). They were fetched by their local government from the Macabalan port in Cagayan de Oro City.

Cagayan de Oro City is part of the Northern Mindanao region.

Upon reaching their province, one of the students had flu-like symptoms, prompting Dr Elizabeth Samama, chief of the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Datu Hoffer, to order a RT-PCR test. 

That student tested positive. Later, 3 more students also developed fevers. Local health officials then ordered that all returning students be tested. Of the 15 who were tested, 12 were confirmed to be positive for coronavirus.

Two others who arrived on May 19 from Cebu City also got positive results. One is from Cagayan de Oro City while the other from Iligan City. Those two came from the same architecture review center in Cebu City.

CDO City epidemiologist Dr Joselito Retuya said that based on their investigation, the students were staying in an apartment owned the review center.

“Our investigation showed that the passengers arrived at the port of Cebu on May 15, but when their voyage did not push through, they stayed at a facility near the pier until they boarded the vessel on the 18th and arrived here on the 19th.

“We conducted contact tracing and we traced 5 Coast Guard personnel in Cebu City, because that’s where they came from,” Retuya said.

(Editor’s note: We earlier reported that 50 Coast Guard personnel were traced in Cebu City. This has been corrected.)

Retuya said that they have informed the Cebu City government and the Cebu provincial government.

Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella ordered an investigation on how the students acquired the virus because isolation and testing are supposed to be part of the protocols before they were issued exit clearances from the city.

“Whether you’re a student or businessman leaving, or whoever, you have to comply with requisites to get clearance,” Labella’s spokesperson Rey Galeon said in Cebuano during a press conference on Wednesday, May 27.

“You should be negative for COVID-19, and secondly you have to be given clearance at your arrival port. You aren’t supposed to be given clearance if your home LGU is not alerted first,” he said.

Galeon said the mayor wanted to know if the students acquired the virus in Cebu City and how they contracted it.

Dr Lorraine Nery of the Cagayan de Oro City Health Office said that the national government was preparing unified guidelines on how to treat locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and their quarantine protocols, and the RT-PCR test required before they are sent to their hometowns.

Nery added that the LSIs in Cagayan de Oro are taken into the isolation units before they are sent to their hometowns. “So that they can say that here in our city, they were taken care of before they were sent home,” Nery said.

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno said that they would have to invest more in the fight against COVID-19.

The city government purchased 3 RT-PCR machines, 2 thermal scanners, and has alloted P25 million for the construction of an emerging and re-emerging infectious disease ward.

The city government has 8 isolation units with a capacity to hold 500 individuals. Some of these CIUs are hotel rooms that the city government enrolled into Philhealth’s accreditation for COVID-19 isolation facilities.

Cebu City currently has over 2,000 cases of coronavirus, Cagayan de Oro City so far has 10 confirmed cases. 

As of Wednesday, May 27, there are over 15,000 cases of coronavirus in the Philippines. The DOH also announced 18 new deaths raising the death toll to 904 nationwie with 3,506 total recoveries.– Rappler.com

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at ryan.macasero@rappler.com