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Give stranded people help, but observe strict health protocols, Go reminds authorities

Give stranded people help, but observe strict health protocols, Go reminds authorities

MANILA, Philippines — Give individuals stranded because of COVID-19 travel restrictions all the help they would need to get back to their home province, but strictly observe health protocols to prevent a further spread of the disease.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, repeated this call in a statement issued on Saturday.

“Let’s help them get home, but let’s give them an orderly system so that they would not get sick while waiting at the transportation terminals,” Go said in Filipino.

“Observe social distancing and wear masks at all times,” he added.

Concerned agencies involved in the government’s Hatid Tulong program should give the stranded individuals enough food and shelter to prevent them from crowding close together.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Let’s help each other so that our countrymen would not suffer more. Let’s help those looking for a way to get home so that they would not be put at risk. Don’t neglect them,” Go said.

To guarantee the safe transport of people, Go urged Hatid Tulong implementers to adopt a single dispatch system similar to that used in the temporarily suspended Balik Probinsya Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program.

The controlled set of procedures in the proposed system would ensure that travelers would not be exposed to the virus.

In early June, the government temporarily suspended the BP2 program to focus its resources into helping stranded citizens in Metro Manila and other regions.

Not to be confused with the BP2 program, Hatid Tulong is another initiative of the executive branch to help individuals, tourists, students and overseas workers left locally stranded to return to their hometowns.

This is a joint effort of various executive agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies including the Philippine Coast Guard, Department of Tourism, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, Presidential Management Staff, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine National Police, other concerned agencies, and in coordination with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

To prevent the spread of the virus, all beneficiaries who wish to return to their provinces will undergo rapid COVID-19 testing conducted by DOH representatives from their place of origin and are required to follow quarantine procedures once they arrive in their provinces.

This is done in coordination with local government units and in compliance with national and local health and safety protocols being implemented.

Go echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier remarks that local governments should be ready to accept returning residents and ensure that they would be assisted upon their arrival.

“As President Duterte himself said, these are Filipinos, our countrymen. Accept them. Whatever you need, we will provide. Have pity on them. Help all Filipinos,” Go said.

As the chair of the Senate health committee, Go previously requested the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to further streamline the process of transporting stranded individuals, impose strict health and safety protocols, and to put a stop to unauthorized or unsanctioned travel initiatives.

“Let’s just make the process safe and orderly. Always follow health and safety protocols, and make sure to protect the communities where they will go home to,” he said.

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