Gensan health exec sacked over breach of COVID-19 quarantine protocols

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The head of this city’s epidemiologist surveillance unit, who was concurrently the assistant city health officer, was sacked after she reportedly allowed a locally stranded individual (LSI) to attend the wake of his mother at their residence without going through the required 14-day quarantine period.

And what put Dr. Lalaine Calonzo in deeper trouble was that the LSI, a police officer, later tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Her relief was ordered by City Mayor Ronnel Rivera after it was found that Calonzo breached quarantine protocols for allowing the LSI and his sister, who both came from Manila, to go straight to their family residence and attend the wake of their mother, who was murdered last July 26.

It was City Councilor Rosalita Nunez, chair of the city council committee on health, who reportedly asked Calonzo to allow the children to attend the wake and funeral of their mother without undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

She said that she requested Calonzo to grant the request of the family for humanitarian consideration.

Calonzo stressed that she granted the request upon the approval of City Administrator Arnel Zapatos, who later denied giving the approval to Calonzo.

However, the son of the slain real estate broker, a police officer, was later tested positive for COVID-19.

Three city councilors, including Nunez, were among the 150 people who were placed under quarantine after they attended the wake and funeral of the slain real estate broker.

Rivera said he ordered the investigation to be conducted by the local inter-agency task force against COVID-10 to determine the culpability of the erring local officials involved in the breach of COVID-19 quarantine protocols.

He said the investigation will also delve on how to enhance the implementation of quarantine protocols being implemented by the local government on how to contain the local transmission of the virus.

The Department of Health (DOH) has reported some 40 COVID-19 positive cases in the city involving returning LSIs and overseas workers.

Amid this controversy, the City Council had approved on Tuesday August 11, an ordinance which seeks to penalize violators of COVID-19 quarantine protocols being implemented by the local government.   

City Councilor Edmar Yumang, author of the measure, said violators shall be penalized with an imprisonment of one year and a fine amounting to P5,000, which shall also be applied to government officials and employees who use their influence to help quarantine violators escape while under quarantine.