Fearing that Catanduanes would not be able to deal with a full-fledged outbreak of COVID-19 with its inadequate health infrastructure, Governor Joseph Cua has asked the National Inter-Agency Task Force to upgrade the province’s community quarantine classification to GCQ.
The chief executive’s July 2, 2021 request was made on the basis of the ongoing rise of active COVID-19 cases and the June 26 recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) Center for Health Development Bicol for the upgrade.
The DOH report stated that Catanduanes is under moderate risk, with nine of its 11 towns being recommended to be under GCQ.
Only one town, Bagamanoc, has been considered high risk, with the DOH recommending that it be reclassified to the stricter Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) while Baras would remain under MGCQ.
Gov. Cua informed that government hospitals in the province already have a 52 percent bed utilization rate as of June 30, 2021, with health officials apprehensive that admissions could increase in the coming weeks after point-to-point travel was restored between NCR Plus and Catanduanes.
According to the DOH-CHD5 report, Catanduanes’ level of risk rose from “Low” on June 12 to “Moderate” on June 26 based on the Average Daily Attack Rate (ADAR) and the Two-Week Growth Rate (2WGR).
Twenty or 33.33% of the 60 dedicated beds for COVID-19 cases in local hospitals have been utilized, it said, while that of COVID Isolation beds are 57.10% utilized.
COVID-19 Wards have a bed utilization rate of 7.40% while 40% of Intensive Care Units (ICU) are similarly occupied, with a fifth of available mechanical ventilators in use.
The vaccine coverage or A1 target population, however, is now 96% with 5,627 already vaccinated while only 212 of the A1 group are unvaccinated.
On the other hand, only 16 cases have been admitted to local hospitals as of the same date, with moderate, severe and critical cases numbering only one each.
Under GCQ for moderate risk areas, the local government will have to implement compliance with minimum public health standards and limit movement of persons, with access given only for essential goods and services, and work.
Those below 18 years old, over 65 years old, and those with co-morbidities will have to remain in their households, although LGUs may relax the minimum age requirement to 15.
Cargo or delivery vehicles and vehicles used by private utility companies shall be unhampered while shuttle services of private establishments shall comply with health standards.
On the other hand, all establishments or activities shall be allowed to operate anywhere between 50% to 100% on-site capacity depending on the COVID-19 situation within the LGU.
All construction projects will be allowed subject to strict compliance with construction safety guidelines while government agencies shall operate at 30% to full on-site capacity.
Hotels and accommodation establishments with valid DOT accreditation shall be allowed to operate.
However, public gatherings outside the residence is prohibited, but authorities shall implement attendees to 30% of on-site capacity during religious gatherings, necrological services and visits to memorial parks.
Face-to-face classes for basic education will continue to be suspended while limited face-to-face classes for higher educational institutions could be allowed.
LGUs may impose curfew house as well as allow operation of public transportation based on DoTR guidelines and outdoor non-contact sports and other forms of exercises.
For Bagamanoc, once MECQ is declared, there will be strict home quarantine, with permitted establishments allowed only to operate at 50% capacity.
Work from Home and flexible work arrangements will be resorted to by government agencies and offices.
To be prohibited are entertainment venues, recreational venues, outdoor sports or contact sports, indoor sports or fitness studios, cockfighting, tourist attractions, meetings and conferences, personal care services, and indoor dine-in services.
Public gatherings for funerals and wakes shall be limited to immediate family members, subject to minimum health standards.
Meanwhile, the provincial government is now requiring all travelers, except Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs) to submit negative RT-PCR test results before being allowed entry into the island.
In amending Executive Order No. 24-A which exempted APORs from national government agencies from submitting negative test results and undergoing quarantine, Gov. Joseph Cua said the NGA APORs must still apply for a Travel Coordination Permit through the S-PaSS system to ensure coordination with LGUs.
The change came after the Bicol IATF chairman Atty. Anthony Nuyda called for the requirement in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the island through coordinated travel management.
The same amended order also made a negative RT-PCR test result as a requirement for all other travelers, including private and non-NGA APORs, LSIs and ROFs, regardless of their origin’s quarantine classification, along with other documents and the S-PaSS account.