41 worshippers test positive for COVID-19 in Bataan after attending religious gathering

BALANGA, BATAAN — At least 41 persons tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after attending a religious gathering in a hotel in this town last July 19.

This data was culled from a continuous contact-tracing being conducted by city and health officials in the province since the discovery of the first patient last July 28.

The latest COVID-19 positive count from this outbreak released on Friday, July 31, revealed that nine more patients, including children ages 3-9, were recorded from Abucay town.

This was on top of the 32 others, who were confirmed positive for the coronavirus last July 29 and 30. The number is still expected to rise according to authorities.

This latest setback in the province’s fight against COVID-19 put the number of total confirmed cases in Bataan at 390, 242 of which have recovered, while 11 have died.

According to sources, the spiritual gathering was led by a pastor who came all the way from Metro Manila. An investigation also showed that the gathering failed to observe strict physical distancing, catered to more than the prescribed 50-percent capacity of the venue, and allowed minors and senior citizens to join.

Some of the confirmed COVID-19 patients are now being treated at a COVID-19 facility in Mariveles while those who have not been showing symptoms are being held in quarantine in their own homes.

The Bunker, where government offices are located, was shut down for two days for a thorough disinfection procedure. One of its employees tested positive after attending the same spiritual gathering.

As a result, Gov. Albert Garcia ordered the immediate implementation of a more stringent border control in view of the current COVID-19 situation in the province.

He said that the outbreak being experienced in Bataan arose after the influx of returning overseas Filipinos (ROF), locally stranded individuals (LSI) and authorized persons outside of residence (APOR).

“We need to control this outbreak fast, otherwise, our health system will be inundated with COVID-19 cases. We don’t want that to happen,” said the governor.

Garcia and his team, led by department head Geoff Loyola, are putting together an online registration system that will efficiently aid the local health officials in the identification of ROFs, LSIs and even APORs entering the province. They expect this new online system to be in effect by middle of next week.

The provincial Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 is also drafting a resolution that will penalize those who will violate quarantine and health protocols.