The Department of Health (DOH) Center for Health Development (CHD) in MIMAROPA has expressed concern over the downgrading of Palawan’s quarantine status to a general community quarantine (GCQ), noting the lack of scientific or medical data to support the shift.

While President Rodrigo Duterte announced Friday the easing of ECQ in provinces like Palawan which have only a small number of COVID-19 cases, the DOH pointed out that there has yet to be mass testing in the province crucial to fighting the virus.

“Hindi ganoon kadali mag-pronounce na dapat i-lift ang ECQ dahil hindi sapat ang mga datos na ating pinanghahawakan lalo na kung ang ating expanded testing ay minimal,” Dr. Emerose Moreno, regional incident commander, said in a virtual press conference on Friday.

Moreno was referring to an expanded testing that is yet to be rolled out in Palawan, which so far has only one incidence of COVID-19 infection involving an Australian national who had left the country at the onset of the Luzon-wide ECQ.

Moreno said testing in Palawan has remained “minimal” and that there are many priority patients that still need to be tested

“Ang ating testing in Palawan ay minimal pa rin. Hindi pa natin nate-test ang lahat na dapat ma-test na high risk. Matindi ang ginagawang pag-aaral para ang lahat na factors ay considered hindi tayo magkamali, at hindi tayo maging complacent,” she said.

Moreno’s stance was similar to a recommendation made earlier by experts from the University of the Philippines recommending the easing of restrictions in Palawan only when certain strict criteria are met.

In accordance with President Duterte’s pronouncement, Palawan will downgrade to GCQ starting May 1. Details, however, have yet to be worked out both by the city and provincial governments on how this will pan out.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mario Baquilod, regional director, also pointed out that the public must not be complacent, citing that precautionary measures such as frequent hand sanitizing, wearing of face masks, and physical distancing must still be observed.

“Ang mga precautionary measures at healthy behaviors ay gawin na nating normal na parte ng ating pang araw-araw na buhay upang makaiwas sa pagkakaroon ng COVID-19,” he said.

Two negative results were returned in Palawan. However, further details are yet to be clarified as the regional office are receiving bulk of test results from other provinces in the region.

Palawan remained to wait for 19 test results, which included earlier samples backlogged from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) before the movement of testing center to San Lazaro Hospital on April 18.

The island province has 33 suspect COVID-19 patients, 13 of whom were admitted while 20 were under home quarantine, as of Friday afternoon (3 p.m., April 24).

Meanwhile, Oriental Mindoro recorded its 6th and 7th confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total tally in the region to 17.

Two confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region was also reported to have recovered. However, details were not disclosed by the regional health department.

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is a desk editor and senior reporter of Palawan News. He covers politics, environment, tourism, justice, and sports. In his free time, he enjoys long walks with his dog, Bayani.