BASULTA-bound LSIs spike BARMM COVID-19 cases

Stranded 117 transients tested positive so far.

By Ali G. Macabalang

The plight of rerouted BASULTA-bound locally stranded individuals (LSIs) has caused a sharp spike in the total number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as 117 of the 405 stranded transients tested positive of the virus.

LSIs BUSES: These are some of the buses chartered by the Bangsamoro government upon arriving in Cotabato City in the evening of July 7 carrying the BASULTA-bound LSIs from Cagayan de Oro City. (Photo courtesy of Myrna Jo Henry of BARMM’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI) Team)

Interviewed over a radio station in Kidapawan City by phone patch on Wednesday, BARMM Spokesman Naguib Sinarimbo said stiff measures were being administered on all of the 405 BASULTA-bound LSIs after mass testing showed that 38 more of turned positive as of the time of interview.

Some of the shuttled adults and children from Cagayan de Oro while waiting at a reception area. (Photo courtesy of Myrna Jo Henry of BARMM’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI) Team)

The reported test result on the 38 brought to 117 the number so far among the rerouted LSIs bound for Basilan, Sulta and Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA), according to lawyer Sinarimbo, who is also BARMM’s Local Government minister.

On July 13, BARMM’s Bureau of Pubic Information (BPI) said 78 of the transients for BASULTA had tested positive. In two-day span, the figure rose to 117 as indicated in Sinarimbo’s report.

The BARMM spokesman, however, clarified that all of those positive transient-patients were “asymptomatic” and that health workers as well as security contingents have been attending to LSIs in quarantine areas at the Santitarium facility in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and in designated isolation areas of Camp Darapanan, in the same town.

He took exception to rumors that some of the BASULTA-bound LSIs had escaped, saying an official verification proved the contrary.

The BPI, citing report from the BARMM’s Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on COVID-19, reported on July 13 that the Bangsamoro region had posted 244 confirmed cases with 139 active cases, 100 recoveries and 6 deaths. The new positive results among 38 more LSIs would increase the figure to 282.

Sinarimbo said the regional autonomous government on Tuesday conveyed to the national IATF the plight of the 405 BASULTA-bound LSIs.

He said the national task force acknowledged loose coordinative efforts in the plight of the LSIs.

The government charted a vessel, the Aboitiz-owned MV St. John Paul II, to ferry the 405 LSIS to Zamboanga City port from Manila on July 7. But the boat dropped off instead the LSIs composed of adults and minors at the port of Cagayan de Oro City.

Sinarimbo said the regional government was still waiting for official explanation behind the rerouted ferry services for the 405 LSIs.

At first, he said, the BARMM government had made arrangements with the Western Mindanao Command the use of Navy boats to shuttle the LSIs to their communities in BASULTA, but the arrangement was forgone due to discovery of virus affliction among them.

The regional government also sought the assistance of the national IATF to help in the tracking of persons who might have got in contacts with LSIs while in Metro Manila and along their travel by boat.

He urged the public, especially the local government units of BASULTA to receive the LSIs.

He said the regional authorities would provide all necessary services for the LSIs, but the affected transients prefer services by the LGUs of areas where they reside.

Ali G. Macabalang

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