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City government appeals for public cooperation, admits difficulty managing the COVID-19 surge

(Left) Local IATF spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap and (right) city IMT head Dr. Dean Palanca during a press conference on Saturday.

The Puerto Princesa City government has admitted it lacks the capacity to handle the ongoing COVID-19 surge in the city, as Mayor Lucilo Bayron led officials in seeking the cooperation of local residents to bring down the rate of community transmission.

The government announced Saturday it can no longer manage the increasing number of “suspect cases” or those who tested reactive to antigen testing and will be sending home at least those who showed no symptoms.

Dr. Dean Palanca who heads the City Incident Management Team (IMT), explained that this was because they no longer have enough manpower to be assigned to their existing isolation facilities that have reached maximum holding capacity.

“Starting tomorrow or next two days ay maaari na kami magpauwi ng antigen positive na walang symptoms na puwedeng alagaan ng pamilya hanggang gumaling. Kapag napunta na sa moderate ay maaring kunin na namin sila at ilagay sa facility,” Dr. Palanca said.

Mayor Lucilo Bayron appealed to the public to cooperate by strictly adhering to health safety protocols related to the city’s risk status of General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

“Tayo ay nasa isang sitwasyon na delikado na talaga. Kailangan talaga gumawa tayo ng drastic measures. Kailangan talaga na makiisa ang ating mga mamamayan,” Bayron said.

Risk of further community spread

City officials have previously noted a very high turnout of antigen reactive patients who eventually are confirmed to be COVID-19 positive using the more reliable RT-PCR tests.

Dr. Palanca did not outline safety measures to ensure that potential carriers among suspect cases that will be allowed to go home, but explained that the case will apply only to patients who can be isolated in their own homes so as not to endanger their families.

He added they will also be working closely with barangay officials on the management of these cases.

“Pauna na ‘yan sa mga barangay kasi kahit magdagdag tayo ng facility ay walang magbabantay sa kanila kasi kulang na talaga. Sacrifice talaga. COVID suspect na conducive ang lugar nila na walang symptoms kasi ganoon kadami ang positive natin ngayon,” Dr. Palanca said.

He added that while there are many who are interested to apply as frontline health workers, very few go ahead with their application because  of the stringent requirements, including immediate isolation that will prevent them from returning home on a regular basis.

“Mayroon namang budget, pero wala nang may gustong mag-apply. Kasi ang iba, may mga pamilya, natatakot na sila,” he explained.

Overwhelmed

There are nearly 300 individuals currently being held in isolation facilities, including two new hotels that the city government has arranged for expansion.

City officials said while they have the funds to develop more facilities, they are short of manpower to staff them.

Puerto Princesa City will remain under GCQ until the end of May, but local Inter-Agency Task Force might appeal for a Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine if cases continue to rise.

(With reports from Aira Genesa Magdayao, Patricia Laririt, and Celeste Anna Formoso)

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