City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) officials stated on Tuesday that the decline in number of COVID-19 patients can be attributed to the implementation of Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) status in the city in the month of June.
The city was placed under MECQ from June 1-15 and was extended up to June 30, after which, local officials agreed to adapt the national government’s directive and loosened up restrictions allowing limited gatherings particularly indoor dining at 10% capacity, as long as the establishment uses the StaySafe.ph app for easier and faster contact tracing.
IATF spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap said in a live briefing Tuesday that they are seeing the effects of the lockdown that began on June 1, where in there was a significant drop of cases on June 15, based on a chart he presented during the briefing. The chart showed that from 1461 cases (combined cases of RT-PCR and antigen-positive patients) on June 15, it went down to only 937 on the next day. As of June 21, according to the chart, there were only 760 active cases.
“Kung mapapansin ninyo, bumaba ng bahagya ang mga kaso noong June 15. Makikita sa graph na ito na gumagana ang MECQ na nagsimula noong June 1, at nararamdaman na natin ang pagbaba ng [mga] kaso. ‘Yong GCQ restrictions, hindi talaga nagpababa ng mga kaso. Makikita ninyo, noong June 16, 937 na lang ang mga kaso, ‘yan ay reflection ng nagawa 14 days earlier,” he said.
City Incident Management Team (IMT) head Dr. Dean Palanca also said in the briefing that even though the numbers do seem to be dropping, it is still alarming that nearly every day, at least one person in Puerto Princesa dies of COVID-19. According to the City Information Office (CIO), the death toll has already reached 159 as of June 22, for both RT-PCR and antigen-positive patients.
Travel ban extension, indoor dining allowed at 10%
Yap also said the city IATF is requesting another extension of the inbound travel ban for those coming from NCR plus. He explained that this is to prevent overburdening the city’s healthcare facilities, since hospitals are at full capacity to accommodate patients from all over Palawan, while quarantine facilities are being used for mild and moderate cases.
“Based ang desisyong ito sa ating IMT, kung saan ang assessment nila ay hindi pa sila ready mag-accommodate ng bagong travelers na makakadagdag sa volume ng mga patients na nasa quarantine facilities,” Yap explained.
The travel ban is still subject to the regional IATF’s approval. Meanwhile, the IATF has agreed to allow indoor dining at 10% capacity for restaurants and food establishments. Indoor dining was previously banned by the city government under MECQ, citing difficulty in monitoring.
Vaccine arrival, city molecular laboratory developments
Yap also gave updates on other pressing matters, such as the accreditation of the city’s molecular laboratory and the vaccines ordered from the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company. The completion of the city’s molecular laboratory will increase the city’s testing capacity and unload the burden from the city’s only geneXpert laboratory at the Ospital ng Palawan, while vaccination has been eyed again and again by city officials as the only way the city can see its way out of the COVID-19 crisis.
“’Yong ating molecular lab, we are still at the proficiency testing stage. ‘Yong ating mga staff na mag-ma-man doon ay magkakaroon ng hands-on practical test. The moment they pass that, we are one step closer to accreditation and running the laboratory. The vaccines that we purchased from AstraZeneca, but not all doses that we ordered, they will arrive in tranches. The initial update is that they will be arriving on the second week of July, then another batch in August,” said Yap.