Stricter lockdown eyed in Bacolod City

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    THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is looking at placing Bacolod City under stricter community quarantine to put a break on the rising number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the jurisdiction.

    Bacolod City, along with Tacloban City also in the Visayas region, is under general community quarantine (GCQ) until the end of September.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año yesterday said the Bacolod City situation is among the top agenda of the IATF, which will be meeting today to discuss updates related to the government’s over-all response to the health crisis.

    Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed 2,032 COVID-19 infections in Bacolod City as of September 5. The City Health Office of Bacolod, on the other hand, reported a lower figure of 1,729 cases also of the same date. On Saturday alone, 237 new cases were reported.

    Año said:

    “They (health authorities) are a bit overwhelmed so it’s certain (that) we’ll discuss this tomorrow – what will be the level that will be given. We may upgrade Bacolod City),” Año said.

    If the IATF decides to heighten the quarantine status of the city, it will be placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), where stay-at-home rules are stricter and more businesses restricted from operating.

    Another concern, according to Año, is the case of Iligan City, which now under MECQ. “Cases are rising in Bacolod City and Iligan City,” he said.

    National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the national government is helping Iligan City put up its own One Hospital Command, accredit a COVID-19 testing laboratory, strengthen contact tracing efforts, and build isolation and health care facilities in each barangay to improve its health care capacity.

    “Iligan is the only city under MECQ in the country. All LGUs should help each other as Iligan City is now the center spot. It should have 700 to 1,000 mega care facilities which is why it needs additional quarantine facilities and care facilities in each barangay,” Galvez said.

    He also said the city should stop the practice of home quarantine, emphasizing the need to isolate and treat COVID-19 infected patients in isolation and health facilities to increase their chances of recovery and prevent spreading the infection.

    He said there were some areas where some 70 percent of the patients opted to do home quarantine which led to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

    Galvez also called the attention of the local government units of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Marawi and emphasized the need to follow COVID-19 prevention and mitigation measures, including the observance of minimum health standards in private establishments and workplaces.

    He encouraged private businesses to have their own isolation facilities and to come up with contingencies in line with the “Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate” strategy of the national government.

    He reiterated that based on rigorous scientific assessments, it was discovered that local transmissions are most prevalent in business establishments and places of work especially in areas of convergence such as canteens, common smoking areas, and in shuttle services.

    Iligan City, like Cagayan de Oro City, is among the central economic hubs in Northern Mindanao.

    At the same time, Año said the IATF will likewise discuss the reported delay in the payment of the salaries of contact tracers.

    Stressing the vital role they played in identifying the close contacts of people who tested positive for COVID-19, Año said contact tracers and health workers have to receive the salaries and hazard pay due them.

    He said the country currently has 200,000 contact tracers.

    The issue has to be resolved, he stressed, as the Department of Interior and Local Government will be starting to recruit an additional 50,000 contact tracers once President Duterte signs the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

    The proposed measures allots P5 billion for the hiring of additional contact tracers.

    “Once the measure is signed, the hiring of the 50,000 contact tracers will proceed,” said Año, adding that they are targeting to hire 20,000 contact tracers in Luzon, of which 7,000 will be assigned in NCR. He said Mindanao and Visayas will each be getting 15,000 additional contact tracers.

    Meanwhile, Joint Task Force COVID Shield chief Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar yesterday justified the need to expand the campaign against community quarantine violators through the use of Facebook and other social media platforms.

    “We have been receiving reports or complaints from the public about people posting pictures of their drinking sessions and parties as if it’s already normal,” said Eleazar, who is the current PNP deputy chief for administration.

    On Saturday, Eleazar told police commanders to monitor the social media platforms for quarantine violations, noting that social media has been full of videos and pictures of people violating stay-at-home protocols.

    Eleazar’s order was met by criticisms by some quarters who complained about the potential of police invading the privacy of netizens.

    “You know, we are still in a dangerous time. And some are posting pictures of their drinking session as if they are taunting the government for their defiance of the quarantine protocols,” said Eleazar.

    Eleazar clarified that no all policemen will be monitoring the social accounts of all people. Instead, he said they will focus on complaints received by the PNP, through its social media accounts, from the public.

    Eleazar said the PNP doesn’t care if people would drink inside their residences, as long as they do not go out drank and cause violence in the streets.

    “The drinking session that we are talking about which are in violation of quarantine protocols are those held outside (of the residences) because it’s mandatory that we observe minimum health standards,” he said.