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MAASIN CITY, May 3 (PIA) -- Rural health units (RHUs) in municipalities and city were already provided with an assessment list from the Department of Health (DOH) on the specifications of an isolation unit for individuals suspected of coronavirus-2019 (COVID-19) that may be noticed in their localities.

This was reported by Dr. Verna Fernandez, DOH provincial representative, during the inter-agency task force (IATF) meeting Tuesday last week at the old DPWH function hall here, attended by agency task force members and mayors from different towns and city.

The isolation units will be used for returning overseas foreign workers (OFWs) as well as local residents who are stranded in other places because of strictly implemented quarantine orders.

Instead of going directly to their families, they will be guided to the respective isolation facilities even if they have not shown symptoms of the virus, there to spend a mandatory 14-day quarantine period supported by the LGU in terms of logistical needs and monitored by the LGU’s assigned health personnel.

But while OFWs intending to return are assured passage in close coordination with overseas workers welfare administration (OWWA), returning stranded locals will have to wait a little more time, especially if they came from places with high concentration of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

An unconfirmed initiative of the tourism department has been circulating on social media, reportedly offering transport for these stranded locals, but no tangible results yet can be seen as of this writing.

On Friday, May 1, a new executive order, numbered 24, took effect to last until May 15, placing the whole province on a general community quarantine (GCQ), a notch lower from the last month’s heightened community quarantine (HCQ).

A qualifying statement or one of the “whereases” of EO 24 stipulated that the DOH “in coordination with the provincial/city/municipal government shall improve the capacities and responses to expand their isolation facilities in accommodating more suspect COVID-19 cases.”

EO 24 also tasked the DOH to expand the LGUs’ “COVID-19 testing capacity through procurement/availment of Antibody rapid test, the purposes are to test/screen the communities who can return to work, who are those who shall remain under quarantine and who are those persons that will go for confirmatory test.”

During the meeting, Dr. Fernandez emphasized the need for the LGUs’ isolation units to be certified and accredited by the DOH in order to qualify for a package of assistance from Philhealth as a way to reimburse expenses while catering to the needs of suspect patients on 14-day quarantine at their treatment wards.

Meanwhile, the provincial government has refurbished the old provincial hospital, Salvacion Oppus Yniguez Provincial Hospital (SOYMPH), as its isolation unit and on Tuesday last week the facility was blessed, the blessing ceremony attended by Gov. Damian Mercado, doctors, nurses, and other medical and health personnel. (mmp/PIA8-Southern Leyte)