The coming days are a litmus test for how our preparation will stand against the rising number of COVID-19 positive cases.

The past week saw a rapid surge of cases resulting from swab tests of stranded residents who had arrived from Manila, as the national government imposed the policy of speedy repatriation to decongest the capital. From a zero active case record, Palawan rapidly peaked to a total of 15 record cases as of Saturday,

It is to the credit of both the city and provincial health authorities that our medical response procedures have been able to track and contain the virus, primarily by way of rapid testing and isolation of identified active cases.

The challenge that has emerged at the tail end of this surge is that of one case, reported on 19 June, that authorities have described as an indication of local transmission. Contact tracing has so far been unable to identify the “patient zero” for this particularly unique case. The scenario of a super spreader in the midst of a confined community is probable, as sources in the medical community have admitted.

There are more arrivals expected in the coming days as the province’s quarantine restrictions continue to allow inbound travels. It should not be lost on our health authorities that this is the most critical arena of the fight against COVID-19, where the efficacy of our testing and isolation procedures needs to be strengthened.

Also of critical importance is raising the public’s awareness of at least the overall broad-strokes of our COVID-19 response, which should help mitigate the present risk of local transmission, as compliance to social and physical distancing are better observed.

The management of this pandemic in the local setting is facing a critical juncture here and in the coming more days, and it that absolutely requires more efficiency on the part of our medical response capacity and the cooperation of the public at large.