Covid-19 is on a wave of an unprecedented surge in Puerto Princesa City. From being down to around three remaining active cases just about a month ago, suddenly our isolation facilities are booked with around 200 individuals categorized as “suspect cases”.
A case of death recorded on Monday, April 5, significantly portrayed the viciousness of the novel pathogen we are dealing with, the patient being a healthy 25-year old with no known lingering illness or co-morbidities. Dr. Dean Palanca, who heads the city government’s emergency response team, described it in his latest public briefing as characteristic of the recent cases they have been seeing, one whose symptoms are markedly different from what they had experienced so far.
It is unfortunate there is no local capacity to determine if what Puerto Princesa City is confronting is a new strain of the virus. What we know is the virus began to spread after that infamous event at the Acacia Tunnel a month ago where several cases were indexed.
The Department of Health’s official tracker currently lists only eight remaining cases in the city. For all intents and purposes, it is window dressed. What it doesn’t show is we have stopped doing confirmatory tests since two weeks ago because the sole laboratory testing facility at the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) using the gold standard RT-PCR machine had ran out of cartridges needed to run those tests.
Now we are told we have around 200 “suspect cases”. This was a term we had not heard for a long time. We used that at the onset of the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 when confirmatory testing was not available. We had long deleted that from the lexicon with the advent of the RT-PCR machine.
Now, and as the world moves forward to vaccination and places like Hong Kong began opening their beaches, we find found ourselves counting suspect cases once more, shutting down our airport and retrofitting the antigen test as standard by doing it twice on a patient.
If Puerto Princesa City or Palawan is in a health crisis, no one is brave or honest enough to make the call. Yet we see apparent signs of it – unchecked community transmission, myriads of “index” cases, an enigmatic pathogen, booked-up isolation facilities, decimated ranks of frontliners due to contact tracing, zero confirmatory testing and no mass vaccination in sight.
Maybe this will all go away in two weeks or by the end of the month of April when the recalled moderate general community quarantine or MGCQ status officially ends. Maybe by sheer unknown force the virus will blow away. Maybe the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccines supposedly ordered by the city will arrive much ahead of expectations and we can hope for a game changer? But chances are slim we will be looking good, if all we can do now is hunker.
Among the very basic thing that we need to do, we need to have the Covid laboratory back online so we can properly do the testing and efficiently manage our cases. Our leaders, at the least, need to get out of the whimper and demand from health and national authorities to attend to this need and ensure we have sufficient cartridges at the least. Even if the national government and the Department of Health is fucked up as we are, we should at least try.
We need to demand help to determine what we are facing and muster the science needed to inform our management strategy.
More importantly, we need to instill a better sense of personal responsibility among ourselves individually and as a community, such that we follow the minimum health standards because we perfectly understand their importance and what they are for.
Finally, if there is a health crisis on top of the pandemic in our midst, we need to admit it, stare it down and confront it. Acknowledging that a problem exists is part of the solution. The community needs to put its act together, be on the same page, and pursue set goals and objectives. If we go down further, we go down trying.