LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) has committed to conduct polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to 4,500 people in the mining town of Mankayan.
Mayor Frenzel Ayong on Sunday said the BCDA will do mass testing on Dec. 16 and 17 in response to their request following the surge of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the town.
“We hope to have mass and expanded testing within the mining community, including the adjoining barangays,” he said in a press briefing.
Ayong was referring to Barangays Sapid and Paco, the mining camp where Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s (LCMC) work area and housing are located. Its adjacent barangays are Poblacion, Tabio, Colalo and Cabiten.
The six other barangays have zero Covid-19 cases.
From a single index Covid-19 case on Nov. 10, the number of Covid-19 infections in the mining camp rose to four on Nov. 20, prompting Ayong to place the area under lockdown.
The number of Covid-19 cases in the mining camp subsequently rose to eight on Nov. 22, 17 cases on Nov. 24; 36 cases on Nov. 26; 69 cases on Dec. 3, and 85 cases on Dec. 6.
As of Sunday, Mankayan has a total of 436 Covid-19 cases, with 332 active cases.
Ayong said they were able to contain the virus within the mining camp and a few scattered positive cases in adjacent barangays by placing these areas under localized lockdown to prevent the movement of people and stop the spread of the virus.
He added that only a handful of the mine workers and their families have yet to undergo swab testing.
Mining operations ongoing
Ayong said underground activity and operations at the milling area of the mining firm continue.
He said the company has adhered to a reduced workforce for its underground workers.
“They have now a lesser number of employees underground and we have agreed also that those who are tested negative should be working separately from those who are not yet tested,” Ayong said.
He added that the company agreed to have a safety officer in vital areas like the entrance, at the elevator, and at specific tunnel destination so that there will be somebody who will always be checking on the implementation of the safety protocols.
Ayong lamented that “if only Lepanto acted fast and swift in putting into effect their contingency plan to reduce their workforce, we could have a lesser outbreak, we could have avoided the other adjoining barangays from being infected.”
He also said that it was only when the figures increased that Lepanto seriously reduced their workforce.
Aside from reducing the number of underground workers, Ayong said the company was also told to consider work from home arrangements for office workers.
He added that only those bringing food are allowed to enter the locked down villages on a “drop and go” scheme as a measure to prevent other people from being infected.
He added that aside from the food supplies being provided by the municipal government, other supplies came from other government offices and private people.
“The DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) gave 3,000 food packs, the governor gave 100 cavans of rice and other goods, Congressman Yap gave 300 food packs and other civil society organization, as well as other individuals, are helping to provide the food for our people who are locked down,”
Ayong said they have contained the virus but they are expecting more positive cases with the expanded testing that will be done by the BCDA. (PNA)