COVID-19 task force suspends return of stranded Filipinos in more areas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — Government efforts to send home locally-stranded individuals will be placed on hold in more areas as local governments struggle with the increase in COVID-19 cases in the provinces.

COVID-19 task force spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the moratorium on the return of locally-stranded individuals to Western Visayas, Cebu Island including Mactan, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga region.

"Kaya nagkaroon ng moratorium kasi wala na silang lugar para mag-quarantine, lalong-lalo na sa Caraga. Ang Cebu Island at Mactan, ECQ kasi. Ang Region 6 at 8, kinakailangan nila ng mas maraming espasyo para po sa quarantine facilities," he said in his regular briefing.

[Translation: There's a moratorium because there are no spaces for quarantine, especially in Caraga. Cebu Island and Mactan are under enhanced community quarantine. For Regions 6 and 8, they also need quarantine facilities.]

Several lawmakers and local government officials have appealed to the national government to temporarily stop the "Hatid Probinsya" Program, considered as the source of rising number of COVID-19 cases in the regions.

National Task Force COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez admitted that the return of locally-stranded individuals was one of the factors for the rise in cases in provinces.

"Iyon ang isa sa mga reason na nagkaroon ng spike ang ating other areas. Mga galing Cebuna napunta sa Region 6 at 8. Iyon ang nakitanatin sa isa sa nakita nating spike," he said.

Roque said the IATF will meet on Thursday to craft guidelines for testing.

Related: Stranded Filipinos to undergo COVID-19 swab test before return to hometowns

Earlier this month, the Social Weather Stations said around 4.1 million working-age Filipinos were stranded due to community quarantines.

At a briefing on June 17, Presidential Management Staff Assistant Secretary Joseph Encabo said there were around 13,000 LSIs in Luzon alone waiting for transport to take them to Visayas and Mindanao. However, authorities did say they were continuously working to bring LSIs home.