Puerto Princesa City’s health frontliners are fighting a tough battle to contain the unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases currently sweeping the city. The past weeks have seen a rapid rise in cases that are now threatening to overwhelm the city government’s capacity to isolate and quarantine suspect cases. As contact tracing efforts continue, more people are now needing to be isolated and tested.

Throughout the first year of the pandemic, the city had managed pretty well. The peak number of its active cases hovered at only around 30 cases and there was a consistent downward trend such that by late February three were merely three remaining cases. Then the surge began. As of Saturday, the city of Puerto Princesa had hit its highest daily record of 128 confirmed cases.

The trend suggests a more rapid dispersal of the virus within the community, one that has prompted the city IMT to conclude that it is most like a new strain, one which is more infectious and dangerous.

As a media entity covering Palawan’s pandemic story, Palawan News has chronicled the narratives of the city’s frontliners as the unsung heroes of our time. Working in shifts and in long hours sometimes extending 16 hours straight, many had to distance from their families in order to lessen their risk of spreading the virus to them.

Their individual stories are buried in the statistics that the mainstream media primarily covers. Take this one as an example — a nurse at the Ospital ng Palawan confessing that the hardest part of the job for her is having to endure long hours of sweating under a PPE gear, her N95 mask filling with sweat she could hardly breathe.

These frontliners need not only the cooperation of residents in implementing a hard lockdown of “critical zones”, but more importantly all the resources necessary to perform their tasks including additional manpower. Community volunteerism is imperative at this hour, as it is one of our main tools to fight COVID-19 absent the availability of vaccines to inoculate a significant chunk of the population.

Many individuals and groups, including Palawan News, are extending support to our frontliners by way of donations and other forms of assistance. Many others try to help in other ways, including reminding the public to observe safety protocols and practice responsible citizenship.

A group of volunteers recently put up a community pantry in Barangay San Miguel to help locked down communities tide over their current difficulties. Such voluntarism is exemplary and could be replicated in other places.

The critical period facing the city until the end of this month will determine if our situation will get better or degenerate further. The viciousness of the COVID-19 virus may be beyond anyone’s control at this time, but how we capacitate our frontliners and how we act as citizens will dictate the shape of our fate in the face of this continuing challenge.