A five-day stretch last week brought eight (8) new confirmed coronavirus cases in the province of Catanduanes, bringing the total to 155.
A 37-year old female government employee from Bato, with no history of travel and exposure, was the first to be confirmed on Jan. 20. She was noticed to have cough, colds, body pains, difficulty of breathing and loss of smell and taste which started on Jan. 15 and isolated.
Three days later, four (4) new cases were added to the list: a 48-year old male San Andres, who had colds on Jan. 8; a 52-year old male from San Andres, who suffered low-grade fever and colds on Jan. 10; a 32-year old female government employee from Virac, who was observed to have colds and loss of sense of smell on Jan. 13; and, a 24-year old male contractual worker from Virac, who had colds, loss of sense of taste and smell on Jan. 13. All were isolated, presumably in their own homes.
On Jan. 24 came three (3) more, all from Virac: a 44-year old female businesswoman, who began suffering from fever, cough, on-and-off colds, headache, loss of sense of smell and sense of taste on Jan. 17; a 21-year old male government employee who had fever, cough and colds on Jan. 18; and, a 63-year old female retired government employee who had on-and-off cough, runny nose, sneezing and loss of sense of smell on Jan. 17.
Of the 155 cases so far in the island, 12 are active as of Jan. 24, with 11 in quarantine and one admitted at a health facility. Virac has eight of the active cases while San Andres and Bato has two (2) each.
Reliable sources, however, claim that the actual number could be more, as some of those who apparently contracted the virus have chosen not to report their condition to the local health authorities.
Such deliberate, irresponsible act is in violation of Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.
Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of said act, considered as a violation is the non-cooperation of persons and entities, such as: refusal of suspect or probable cases to submit for physical examination and/or provision of clinical samples; refusal to provide the required information for contact tracing activities; failure to comply with quarantine or isolation order; knowingly or willfully infecting another with a communicable disease; and, among others, commission of acts of discrimination against confirmed, suspect or probable COVID-19 cases.
The violation is punishable with a fine of P20,000 to P50,000, or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both at the discretion of the proper court.
Among those suspected of having ignored orders to submit to swab tests or even inform local health authorities are several elective officials, health personnel, business persons, and government employees.
It is unfortunate that these malefactors who are risking the public’s health are not emulating Virac Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla released a statement on social media after her swab test turned out to be positive,
“I decided to come out into the open because I believe that being a COVID-19 positive is not something to be ashamed of… As a doctor and public servant, I felt that I am called for to help out in educating people when faced with situations like this. Yes, there is confidentiality to observe, but it can be sacrificed if the safety and welfare of those people we might have exposed unknowingly and unintentionally are at stake,” she stressed.
The same openness and subservience to the law should also be observed by the local police, who are most often seen just tooting the car horn or nonchalantly passing by residents who are not wearing face masks in public places.
It is not just the laxity among the general population that is causing the recent spike in new COVID-19 cases but also the lackluster effort of the authorities, even when the local governments have already passed ordinances penalizing violation of health protocols.
Pray, tell us, how many people have been penalized or charged in court for such violations?