The election frenzy stoked by this week’s rush in the filing of certificates of candidacy has dampened the impact of a warning raised by the City Incident Management Team (IMT) about the creeping rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the capital.
This week, the tracking data indicated a surge of cases after it broke past 1,000 on Wednesday. In the context of Puerto Princesa’s critical care capacity, this is alarming because it is approaching the tipping point. Once again, the hospitals are almost at full capacity according to health officials, as well as the city government’s quarantine facilities being utilized for holding close contact cases.
The last time the city was in this situation was in March this year at the beginning of a surge that lasted well over six months. That was a tough time as it pushed the city government to the limit trying to scramble for resources to contain the outbreak.
The IMT projection that we might be experiencing a peak of 4,000 cases by October is very alarming, as it threatens to smother the records set by the first surge whose peak numbers hovered at just above 1,000 cases.
(See related story: Puerto Princesa City COVID-19 cases nearing critical level)
During the city’s initial trial by fire, the peak number of cases on record stood at 376 confirmed positive cases by the end of March, which was already alarming because it started from near zero from the beginning of that same month. This time, the flags have been raised at the juncture of 1,055 cases last week, and we’re staring at four times this number in another month’s time according to health officials themselves.
It is unclear at this stage how far the city government has already prepared for such a scenario. What is evident is its lack of resources to fund the ongoing war against the pandemic. This week, it announced a stoppage of its Covid marshalls’ program, citing lack of budget as the reason. The marshall program had hired over 1,000 part-time employees to enforce mandatory health protocols to the public. They had to let go because they couldn’t pay their salaries anymore.
With its financial resources dwindling, the city government has to scrape the bottom to fund the necessary measures to contain yet another surge. It is a tall order for administration officials even just to focus on the challenge facing them, as the coming elections tend to distract them from the urgent task of setting priorities.
One important thing going is that vaccination is well on its way. It makes a lot of difference by minimizing severe cases and preventing high casualties. Vaccines however do not contain the spread, and we need another set of measures to address that.
A so-called tragedy of commons situation will arise once we begin to relax our guard thinking we’re already safe, or that the Covid threat is no longer that serious and people can focus on other matters of more concern to them, like the elections for those who are into politics. Then it will be too late.