MAASIN CITY, April 14 (PIA) -- The provincial inter-agency task force (IATF) for emerging infectious diseases decided to continue enforcing the heightened community quarantine (HCQ), spelled out under executive order 22, to be effective for 15 more days after its coverage expires on April 15.

The decision was reached in a meeting yesterday, Monday, the gathering presided by Gov. Damian Mercado and attended by member agencies from the national and provincial levesl who are at the frontline of the battle against the deadly coronavirus disease, including some private sector groups.

Local chief executives from the different municipalities and city of the province also attended the IATF meeting held at the old DPWH function room building here in the city.

The quarantine extension of the province is the subject of the new executive order 23, hard copies of which will be out expectedly on April 16, or a day after EO 22, in effect starting March 25, shall have ended.

During the lively discussion in review of EO 22 that was steered by Geraldine Maquilabit, provincial director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), most of the key provisions were retained, like travel restrictions, wearing of face masks, and social and physical distancing.

But in a section that allowed selected persons to travel anywhere around the province, personnel of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), especially 4Ps and KALAHI, are added, as well as ministers of other faith-based denominations.

Also considered are the returning Southern Leytenos overseas foreign workers (OFWs), interceded by the overseas workers welfare administration (OWWA) in a letter to mayors, to be allowed to return home after complying with OWWA-driven quarantine procedures.

However, these returning local expatriates shall still be made to undergo quarantine protocols, this time to isolation units prepared by the LGUs closely monitored by health personnel.

The issue on stranded Southern Leytenos in Cebu and other places, like students and wage earners, was also extensively discussed.

But Gov. Mercado remained steadfast in his stand to keep over 500,000 Southern Leytenos safe rather than allow about 1,000 returning locals from areas with known COVID-19 local transmission to come back, and disturb the province’s COVID-free state should one of them turns out as potential carrier.

“Hulaton na lang nato ang Abril 30,” (Let us wait until April 30) the governor said, referring to the new timeline, citing the gains of the present quarantine that drastically reduces the persons under investigation (PUIs) to only 4, down from a near three-digit figure.

The quarantine extension came at a time when issues on checkpoints were raised, prompting Gov. Mercado to declare that henceforth those manning posts at provincial boundaries will be in four shifts or six-hour duty per shift, no longer the 12-hour shifting. (mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)