The City government is awaiting the concurrence of the national Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) to “escalate” by a notch the risk status of Puerto Princesa from the current moderate general community quarantine (MGCQ) to moderate enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status.
Once implemented, the city government said it will impose additional restrictions on the general movement of people within Puerto Princesa, including continued travel restrictions and the imposition of penalties on violators of MECQ guidelines.
The measure is intended to reverse the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the city, which city health officials said has already overwhelmed the local medical care capacity including hospitals and isolation facilities.
The city also said it will no longer extend the present hard lockdown of the five contiguous barangays within the city proper beyond April 30.
Norman Yap, city legal officer and IATF spokesperson, said the proposed MECQ status will last for two weeks, after which it will be downgraded again to MGCQ.
He explained that under a MECQ status, certain establishments previously allowed to operate will be enjoined to suspend operations. These includes mainly establishments catering to entertainment, sports, tourist attractions, libraries and museums, meeting venues and conferences, personal care services and indoor dining restaurants and eateries.
Yap clarified, however, that while indoor dining activities will be prohibited, restaurants may be allowed to operate outdoor dining.
Under the planned MECQ, government offices will remain open but with skeleton workforce.
Commercial establishments as well as government offices will be required to follow guidelines to minimize interaction among individuals, including the prohibition of group dining and the reduction of work forces onsite.
For establishments where an employee will test reactive to antigen and therefore classified as COVID suspect, the local IATF will be authorized to impose a 72-hour work suspension on the establishment concerned.
COVID “sheriffs” to replace COVID marshals
The city said it will also be deploying new “COVID sheriffs” to take over the previous role of COVID marshals in ensuring the public’s compliance to minimum health protocols including social distancing and wearing of face masks and face shields.
Unlike the COVID marshals, however, Atty. Yap said the COVID sheriffs will be empowered to impose penalties on violators.
Existing travel restrictions will be in place until May 6, which allows only national government APORs and returning Filipinos.
However, the city will start to require 10 days quarantine for traveling individuals, except if travelers have already completed 14 days quarantine before their travel.
Overwhelmed health facilities
Meanwhile, Dr. Dean Palanca, who heads the Incident Management Team (IMT), said that the Ospital ng Palawan (ONP) which is designated as the sole COVID hospital in the city has already reached its maximum caring capacity.
He noted that ONP’s two isolation facilities are currently already full, even as the hospital has already increased its bed capacity to accommodate more severe and critical cases.
“Puno na ang ONP, both Isolation 1 and isolation 2. Hindi na biro ang ganitong mga cases natin pati ang mga hospitals natin ay napupunuan na tayo ng mga pasyente,” Dr. Palanca said.
Meanwhile, the city government also addressed residents of Purok Kapatagan in Barangay San Manuel who went to the area’s community pantry on April 24 to report to health authorities if they develop symptoms of COVID infection, stating that they had been exposed to an individual who had tested antigen positive during the occasion.