This week was a milestone in Puerto Princesa City’s fight against COVID-19, with two significant developments. First was the recovery of three patients quarantined at the Skylight Hotel facility, which demonstrates our frontliners’ capacity to manage infected patients. The other was the rapid surge of the virus in a section of the city, in what is now described as a case of community transmission.

These two instances are a cause for celebration and concern, respectively. On one hand is a demonstration of grit and determination of our frontline health workers in charge of tracking down cases and managing them individually, ensuring that infected patients are properly taken care of. These frontliners deserve the recognition and respect due to them, and they badly need all the support they can get for the greater tasks ahead.

There is presently, on the other hand, a daunting task of containing the spread of the virus, not knowing where it is exactly and who is spreading it. The lockdown of portions of Barangay Santa Monica needs to be understood as a case where the virus has spread within the community and is difficult to track down and isolate. A lockdown to envelop a wider arena was necessary to ensure it can’t spread any further.

We are in a crucial stage of the battle where the virus is attacking several fronts, and we need to contain it such that it will be within our capacity to handle.

The lockdown of Sta. Monica needs the cooperation of the residents in and out of it. The medical science behind the lockdown stems from an understanding that the virus can’t last beyond 14 days without transferring to another host, thus isolation and treatment of infected patients are an integral strategy.

There is also no denying the fact that the degree of difficulty that Puerto Princesa City is facing is much lower than in most battlefronts of the pandemic, where the metrics are defined in terms of doubling rates and human casualties as opposed to recoveries.

It also goes without saying that the local government units that are in the frontlines of this pandemic – apart from Puerto Princesa City, the towns of Sofronio Espanola, Bataraza, Coron and Busuanga – need to rise to their respective challenges of keeping COVID-19 at bay, at least during the critical period of quarantine.

The decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to suspend the repatriation of stranded residents from Metro Manila and other places was a welcome relief for Palawan, which has emerged shell shocked from the rapid spread of the virus carried by unsuspecting travelers.

The suspension only gives local government units a breathing room to assess their respective preparations and to shore up their capacity. At the end of the day, these stranded individuals too have the rights to go back to their families and the right to demand proper care from the government, such that their safety and that of the rest of their community is ensured.