Instead of upgrading the province’s classification to Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Governor Joseph Cua has enjoined mIunicipal mayors to implement granular lockdowns in barangays with rising COVID-19 cases.
Answering questions from local media in the June 25, 2021 press conference at his office, the chief executive said resorting to a total lockdown needs to consider a lot of factors, especially its effect on the local economy including jobs and livelihood.
He added that local government may no longer have enough funds for food assistance during a total lockdown as it is mandated to set aside their Calamity Funds in preparation for the coming typhoon season.
“The problem is the lack of observance of health protocols,” Cua stated as he asked mayors and barangay captains to strictly enforce the wearing of face masks and physical distancing particularly in normally crowded areas like markets.
Appealing to the people to go back to the basics of fighting the pandemic, he suggested that permanent or job-order employees be assigned to monitor compliance with health protocols.
With regards to the recommendation of the Catanduanes Medical Society (CMS) for the upgrading of the province’s classification from MGCQ to the stricter ECQ, he disclosed that the letter has already been forwarded to the Bicol Inter-Agency Task Force for their consideration.
“We are not ignoring it,” the governor stressed. “Hindi yan basta-basta, dakul na kunsiderasyon.”
Also pending before the provincial IATF is the communication of the COVID-19 Response Cluster recommending an upgrade to GCQ for at least 14 days and the home-based isolation or lockdown of households receiving returning citizens.
On the other hand, Provincial Health Officer II Dr. Hazel Palmes said while the PHO respects the CMS’ suggestion, the rise in new cases should be studied if this is due to mass infection.
Understanding the data on the basis of the morbidity week would facilitate a decision on the matter, she added.
PHO I Dr. Franchette Amabella Panti clarified that the morbidity week case count is based on the onset of disease symptoms or the date the patient was swabbed, and not on the date of release of test results.
Regarding a recent EO he issued removing the testing requirement for national government Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APOR), Gov. Cua bared that while he is personally against it, he has to follow IATF guidelines lest he be sanctioned.
Dr. Panti, for her part, reminded APORs to be aware of their responsibility to observe minimum health protocols and to isolate immediately once they feel the symptoms.
Health officials are also reviewing COVID cases admitted into hospitals if they really required hospitalization so as to free up precious bed space in the dedicated COVID-19 wards.
The right patient has to be brought to the right facility so as to save LGU resources, Dr. Palmes stressed, noting that under the “step-down” care, those who have recovered need to be moved to a Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facility (TTMF).
Under the One Hospital Command real-time referral system, the doctor needs to consider the patient’s status to determine where he is to be brought, with the Incident Management Team (IMT) handing the referral while health care workers will focus on management of the patient.
As early as January, she said, Level II hospitals have been advised to set aside 30% of their bed capacity for COVID cases, which would also require additional personnel per bed.
Gov. Cua revealed that the task force has looked into renting the temporarily shut down the 16-bed Dr. Antonio P. Zantua Memorial Hospital for P200,000 a month but the difficulty of securing the license to operate prompted the IATF to consider putting up two container vans at the EBMC compound to serve as extension ward.
For now, we cannot afford mass testing, he said, but the province is seeking to purchase three antigen test machines, with two to be based at Tabaco port and the other at EBMC.
“Close or primary contacts should be subjected outright to antigen test and isolated while waiting for the confirmatory RT-PCR test,” the governor stated.
On the DOH’s promised RT-PCR laboratory at the provincial hospital, Cua indicated that while the lab room has already been completed, the DOH has yet to release the funding.
The RT-PCR machine itself is not expensive but the other accessories and equipment account for the large portion of the budget, he added.
Queried on the new policy allowing in passengers who tested positive, the governor said that this applies only to those who got tested at the port and not to those who did so at the point of origin.
With regards to the vaccine rollout, Dr. Panti informed that the 2,320 doses of Sinovac which arrived last week is for second dose and the rollout is constrained by the allocation given by DOH.
She likewise bared that while 37% of 26,049 priority A1, A2 and A3 population have already been vaccinated, there is still resistance among A1 individuals including health care workers and members of Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs).