Palawan COVID-19 response teams welcomed the “timeout” brought about by canceled commercial flights and sea travel, saying that this will give more time for command centers to assess and prepare for the next wave of returning locals.
The return of the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and other areas with high COVID-19 cases prompted the local Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to temporarily suspend all inbound commercial flights to Puerto Princesa City until August 18.
Commercial sea travel was also suspended.
Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) chief Jerry Alili said in a live briefing August 6 that the suspension of flights and sea travel has brought about some substantial rest for frontliners in the province, giving them time to assess their systems and prepare for the resumption of inbound travel.
“Good news ito para sa amin, makakapagpahinga kami nang kaunti,” he said. “Makakapagpahinga na rin ang mga quarantine facilities At the same time, opportunity rin para sa amin para i-assess at i-evaluate ang mga operations namin and to prepare for the next level of operations.”
He also said that the province has already brought home nearly all locally stranded individuals (LSIs). The remainder of inbound travelers is mostly returning overseas workers, authorized persons outside residence (APORs), and regular travelers.
“Inaaral namin ang possibility na ang mga LSI ay paubos na, maaring wala na. Maaring mga regular travelers na lang ang mga umuwi rito,” he said. “Of course, mayroon pa tayong mga ROF (returning overseas Filipinos) at siyempre mga APOR.”
Former Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief and newly-appointed El Nido hospital director Dr. Mary Ann Navarro added during the live briefing that without incoming returnees, towns with small quarantine facilities will be able to decongest and will not risk overfilling them.
“Ang health worker ay nagkakasakit at napapagod din. Kailangan din na mag-rethink ng mga bagong strategies, dahil imbis na bumababa ang mga kaso, tumataas pa,” she said.
“Sa atin, ang mga quarantine facilities ay napupuno na rin, lalo na ang Taytay at Roxas, sila ang may pinakamarami na mga umuuwi. Ang Cuyo rin, ‘di ba isla ‘yon? Ilan lang ang rooms ng quarantine facilities nila, hindi naman puwedeng maghalo-halo ang mga tao doon,” she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte agreed to bring back stricter quarantine protocol on July 31 after health worker groups called for two weeks of ECQ and a structured plan for the health sector to combat the pandemic.