1st coronavirus cases in 2 Leyte LGUs came from Balik Probinsya program

Two local government units (LGUs) in Leyte have recorded their first coronavirus cases – both returning residents under the national government’s Balik Probinsya program.

The Department of Health-Eastern Visayas Center for Health Development said in a press statement on Thursday, May 28, that Leyte's two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Baybay City and in Tanuan.

“These two positive [cases] were beneficiaries of the first batch of the Bagong Pag-Asa Balik Probinsya Program of the Government who arrived last May 21, 2020,” DOH-EVCHC said.

The Baybay City patient is a 28-year-old male while the Tanauan patient is a  26-year-old male. Both are in their respective community quarantine facilities for observation.

DOH-EVCHC director Dr Minerva Molon said health authorities will get the passengers’ list of the bus used by the two coronavirus patients to help them in contact tracing.

Molon said the two patients as well as others on their bus were swabbed upon arrival in the province on May 21. Their samples were sent to the subnational laboratory in Cebu. 

She also said that some local governments had opted to have their returning residents reswabbed, and sent the samples to the Divine World COVID-19 Hospital Testing Center.

The two new coronavirus patients confirmed in Leyte were retested at the Divine World testing center. 

Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos L. Cari announced his city's first coronavirus case in a Facebook post on Wednesday, May 27, ahead of the official DOH announcement.

Apparenntly inn light of this, Molon said on Thursday, “We would like to appeal to other stakeholders to please observe proper flow of reporting and announcement of results to avoid panic and misinformation of the public.” 

Some local officials have criticized the government's Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program – a pet project of presidential aide turned senator Bong Go – citing lack of coordination in implementing the program and also the timeliness of implementing it in the middle of a pandemic.

Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez had earlier cited the case in Leyte where repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrived without prior notice.

Officials of Negros Occidental and Bacolod City were also caught by surprise following the mass arrival of nearly 500 OFWs in the province on Monday, May 25 – also without prior coordination with the local government.

On May 6, President Rodrigo Duterte adopted Go's program through Executive Order No 114, which institutionalized the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program.

The program is supposed to "boost countryside development and inclusive growth, provide adequate social services, and promote full employment, industrialization" in rural areas. Rappler.com