One-month MECQ in Cagayan mulled

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    GOVERNOR Manuel Mamba yesterday said he is mulling putting Cagayan province under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) for one month as the local government and the health sector rush to address the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in the province.

    “We are really contemplating on putting Tuguegarao City under MECQ again, much longer than 15 days. As the governor of the province, as a medical doctor, if it’s possible, one month, 30 days,” said Mamba.

    Cagayan is currently under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

    Mamba said he will recommend to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that Tuguegarao be placed under MECQ, depending on the result of an ongoing mass testing of 3,500 residents, including those displaced by flooding due to typhoon Ulysses.

    Also targeted by the mass testing are pregnant women, senior citizens, especially those who have comorbidities, health workers and other frontliners.

    Cagayan province is still in the process of recovering from typhoon Ulysses which displaced thousands of residents. On top of the rains brought by the typhoon, the release of water from the Magat Dam also widely contributed to the massive flooding in the province
    Rogie Sending, Cagayan’s public information officer, said floodwaters subsided about four days ago, making it a lot easier now to bring relief and other assistance to affected areas.

    “Before, we’re doing it by air, now we are able to conduct relief operations by land,” Sending said.

    Mamba said the three-day mass testing, which began yesterday morning, seeks to verify if the COVID-19 situation in the city is worsening.

    “We have a mass testing of 3,500 people here in Tuguegarao City to see if there is an upsurge of COVID cases,” said Mamba, adding the province currently have 147 COVID-19 cases, of which 111 were recorded in Tuguegarao.

    Sending said the mass testing will determine if there was transmission of the virus in the evacuation centers or during the relief operations. “If the cases will increase after this mass testing, the governor will really recommend to place (the city) under MECQ,” he said.

    Tuguegarao City mayor Jefferson Soriano led the swabbing of residents in his jurisdiction.

    Soriano said priority will be given to evacuees exhibiting symptoms and those who have been to evacuation centers.

    As of yesterday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 59 families or 264 individuals from Tuguegarao City are still in evacuation centers.,

    TIANGGE

    Presidential spokesman Harry Roque yesterday warned bazaar operators of possible shut down if they fail to implement and observe minimum health protocols such as physical distancing and the wearing of face masks and face shields.

    Roque, who is also the spokesman of the Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, made the warning as the Department of Health (DOH) started to prepare a contingency plan for a possible surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases after the holidays.

    He reminded the public that government had already shut down some malls and establishments that failed to comply with the health protocols, especially when they allowed the holding of shopping sales and entertained large crowds despite the strict quarantine measures.

    “I’d like to remind the tiangge operators, you could be closed down if you do not observe social distancing. You can limit the people in your bazaars, have a special entry and exit point. If you do not control the crowd, you could be closed down, you would lose your business),” he added.

    Roque said the DOH had issued Department Circular 2020-0355 to ensure that the public will be able to observe and practice the minimum public health standards during the holiday season.

    Under the Circular, some holiday activities had been classified as “safe” like online masses, noche buena or media noche with the family inside the home, online video calls among family members who are apart during the holiday season, and shopping in online stores.

    “Moderate” activities include small gatherings in public areas that take into consideration physical distancing and restrictions on mass gatherings, while and “high risk” includes physical attendance in indoor religious activities with many attendees, shopping in crowded malls and tiangges, big gatherings in enclosed spaces, and singing, speaking loudly, and physical contact.

    Roque urged the public to be more understanding and not to let the sacrifices that they had made since the implementation of community lockdowns go to waste.

    Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a briefing, said the government’s no face-to-face classes policy will remain in effect until the end of the year but admitted that that the department is studying the possibility of implementing physical classes next year amid the positive development on the manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines.

    Briones said DepEd is preparing a report for the President, which will consider conditions from the DOH and the DepEd, and subject to clearance from the IATF.

    VIRTUAL PARTIES

    Citing the persistent threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOH yesterday pushed for the holding of virtual Christmas parties this season.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said it would be better if the public will just opt for online gatherings and reunions this Christmas season, instead of risking the spread of the novel virus.

    “Usual activities are not advisable as these places the public at much higher risk of contracting the virus,” said Vergeire.

    “Please consider modifying your Christmas activities or resorting to virtual activities to mitigate the spread of the virus, particularly in enclosed spaces and with an exceeding number of attendees from the recommended limit,” she added.

    This, the health official said, means that Christmas activities must be limited to those belonging to the same household as much as possible.

    “The DOH recommends getting together exclusively with household members, and virtual gathering with those not residing in the same house as most infections are made through close contact and prolonged exposure,” said Vergeire.

    US AID

    The United States Embassy in Manila said it has already provided more than $23.4 million or P1.1 billion in assistance to the Philippine government to buttress its efforts in battling the pandemic.

    The US assistance is divided into support for medical treatment, empowering health workers, boost in testing capacity, strengthening the supply management chain, bolster local businesses affected by the pandemic and expansion of water, sanitation and hygiene services.

    In terms of support for medical treatment, the embassy said it has provided 100 new ventilators worth P117 million, personal protective equipment to 49 medical facilities worth P36.8 million; 1,300 new cots worth P9.3 million, 12 isolation tents worth P1 million, and P41.6 million to support a UN project to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in high-risk communities.

    The embassy said the United States Agency for International Development also facilitated the rapid procurement of the Philippine government of more than P45 billion worth of PPE and other COVID-19 essentials.

    As to empowering health workers, the embassy said it provided training to more than 28,000 health workers nationwide while it has also supplied online learning modules to more than a hundred hospitals.

    It said that it has supported the increase in the testing capacity of the DOH from an initial 200 to 30,000 tests per day while also upgrading laboratories and strengthening the specimen transport systems.

    It has also assisted the DOH and the IATF to develop and launch a national commodity and logistics tracking tool while the USAID-backed Relief Agad system facilitated the distribution of P113 billion in cash relief assistance to P17.2 million SAP beneficiaries nationwide amid the pandemic.

    The embassy said it has supported online seafood marketplace that connects Filipino fishermen with more than 300,000 customers while its DELIVER-e program has helped more than 600 farmer families to deliver 300 tons of fresh produce to 35,000 Metro Manila customers. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Gerard Naval and Ashzel Hachero