TWO sitios, one in Barangay Cubacub, Mandaue City, and the other in Cogon, Pardo, Cebu City, were locked down. Some of their residents were swabbed when relatives of two Covid-19 positives who died were allowed to attend the wake.
The two were swabbed before they died and the results came while their wakes were held. Upon knowing of the swab results, authorities ordered their immediate burial. But it was too late because, aside from the dead men’s immediate relatives, there were neighbors and friends who were exposed as well for attending the wake. Thus, authorities ordered those directly exposed to be swabbed and locked down the area.
Whose fault was it? Relatives of the dead claimed hospital authorities did not tell them that the two were subjected to swab tests before they died. In their death certificates, their doctors did not mention the two were suspected of having Covid-19. So, the relatives decided to hold a wake.
Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, also the deputy implementer of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), wants clarification from the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) on the guidelines for wakes and burial for non-Covid and Covid-related deaths. The existing guidelines are only for Covid-19 deaths which say that the deceased must be buried or cremated within 12 hours.
Garganera wants that even persons under monitoring or investigation and who die should be treated as Covid patients while waiting for the swab results. I think this is unfair. Why don’t we demand from hospital authorities to prioritize and immediately release the swab results of the deceased?
On the other hand, Garganera was fuming mad after two fire volunteers who were exposed to a Covid-19 patient who later died, refused to be swabbed. Last Monday, Garganera threatened to arrest the two volunteers.
They were the first responders to the case of the 60-year-old man from Barangay Cogon Pardo who died of a non-Covid illness, but who was later found to be positive. They brought the patient to the hospital, but the latter was declared dead on arrival. His swab results came while the wake was being held. Ergo, the two volunteers had direct contact with the patient.
Now, does the government have the power to arrest any individual who refuses to undergo a swab test? Yes. The Department of Health (DOH) said that people who refuse to undergo swab test may face stiff fines or jail term.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said this is covered by RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act which prohibits non-cooperation of individuals.
Vergeire said that if “you have been approached by the local government to get swabbed, it means you were identified to be exposed or you have symptoms.”