Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)

MANILA – The return of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) to Region 8 (Eastern Visayas), and the provinces of Negros Occidental and Iloilo has been temporarily suspended for two weeks starting June 27 following concerns on coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in these areas.

In a statement Monday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, chairperson of National Task Force Against Covid-19, said the decision came after Samar and Leyte saw a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, which local government units attributed to the influx of returning residents from Metro Manila and Cebu.

Eastern Visayas has already recorded three Covid-19 deaths.

Meanwhile, Negros Occidental and Iloilo made the request to stop the repatriation temporarily because large numbers of LSIs are from these provinces, and their capacity to receive these people is being overwhelmed, Lorenzana added.

The two-week suspension will enable the task force to establish a better procedure to ensure that returning residents are Covid-19-free as well as help LGUs improve their response to the health crisis.

“The suspension shall provide us with the opportunity to put in place systems and infrastructures so that the local governments can cope with the returning LSIs,” Lorenzana said. (PNA)