As the weekend closed, Palawan registered its first confirmed case of COVID-19 virus, an Australian tourist who was under hospital confinement but was allowed to leave the province before the city went into lock down.
Current statistics show a steady rise in the number of “persons under investigation” (PUI) and “persons under monitoring” (PUM), with the number expected to increase as contact tracing on the case of the Australian tourist is completed.
What is of concern about the current trend is that there is yet to be a sign of leveling off and decline. And as more tests are conducted, it is likely that the number of cases will increase.
The efforts of the various local government units in Palawan are par for the course, in a way that the province ensures its compliance with the national government’s strict guidelines to implement an “enhanced community quarantine”.
However, the lone case of confirmed COVID-19 patient in Puerto Princesa is expected to raise the bar for the city to successfully emerge from the current crisis it is facing. Important in the next few days and weeks is its ability to contain the possible spread of the virus.
City officials have been candid enough to admit that what we are facing is uncharted territory. It is easy to commit a mistake, as Mayor Lucilo Bayron belatedly realized when he ad-libbed during an important public address and got the ire of many citizens.
The good mayor deserves a pass on that one, if only because he needs all the support he can get to muster the city into shape to face more difficult challenges ahead.
At this stage of the City’s fight against the dreaded COVID-19, containment is the main challenge. It is a task made difficult by the fact that detection is extremely weak, as the city and province have no technical or laboratory capacity to perform even the Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDT) on the population at large. All tests are currently centralized at the Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila, with unpredictable schedules of completions.
It is frustrating to note that among the priority actions undertaken by the city government is the distribution of P1,500 to all its citizens, regardless of economic status. While noble in intention, it belies the absence of strategic thinking on effectively combating the potential spread of the virus.
While it is also important for the city to build a war chest and have the financial muscle to fight the virus, it is equally important to identify effective strategies and tactics to win the war.
The success and failure of Puerto Princesa City’s fight against COVID-19 lie on the efficacy of all the interventions that will be thought of and applied by its policymakers in the coming days. There is no mistaking the fact that these challenges are daunting. But the less our political leaders falter and fumble, the better chances we have on making it out of the woods in a fairly decent state.