COVID-19 CHECK. Policemen check a truck entering the town center of Tarangnan, Samar. The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday (May 1, 2020) said it has initially identified 600 residents of Tarangnan, Samar for testing of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) due to close contacts with nine positive cases. (Photo courtesy of Tarangnan police)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Department of Health (DOH) has initially identified 600 residents of Tarangnan, Samar for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) testing due to their close contacts with nine positive patients.

DOH Eastern Visayas Regional Director Minerva Molon said in a phone interview on Friday that personnel from the regional epidemiology surveillance unit took swab samples from 600 suspected carriers this week.

Samples will be sent on Saturday to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City for confirmatory laboratory tests. The result is expected to be out after three to four days.

Due to limited resources, the health department has to prioritize immediate family members and others who interacted with the patients.

The DOH will also conduct targeted testing in Catarman, Northern Samar; Calbayog City, Samar; and Burauen, Leyte.

Tarangnan had its first two confirmed cases on April 7. They are personnel of the 10-bed Tarangnan Community Hospital who got the virus from their co-worker, a doctor from Calbayog City, who recently traveled to Metro Manila.

On April 20, the hospital’s kitchen aide was tested positive for the virus, the same day the two hospital staff were discharged from confinement.

On Monday, the DOH confirmed that there are six new Covid-19 patients from Tarangnan. Most of them are health workers and some are neighbors of the town’s first three infected persons.

Of all new patients, five are being treated at the town’s community hospital and only one is confined at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Tacloban City.

Molon said that one of the challenges encountered by health personnel when they previously conducted contact tracing was the non-disclosure by residents of their health condition.

Meanwhile, Tarangnan Mayor Arnel Tan has called on the national government, private companies, and individuals to extend help to the town’s 6,900 families who are now under total lockdown.

“Instead of cash, please send food items, medicines, and milk to us since we cannot buy anything here,” Tan said in a virtual press briefing on Friday.

The local government has already spent its savings from last year, quick response fund, and calamity fund to buy food packs for all families. (PNA)