(File photo)

There will be no “ayuda,” (aid) for Puerto Princesa residents while the entire city is placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from June 1 to 15.

Local Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap explained that this is because more establishments are allowed to open compared to 2020’s MECQ, where nearly all establishments were ordered to close down.

“Walang ayuda. Ang ayuda ay binibigay lang para sa ECQ. Ang funding ng ECQ ayuda ay galing sa national government, based sa experience sa NCR. At kung mapapansin, medyo marami ang pinapayagang magbukas na establishments na hindi in-allow last time,” he explained in a live briefing.

After President Rodrigo Duterte announced Puerto Princesa’s new quarantine classification late Monday night in his address to the nation, Yap announced local guidelines in a live broadcast Tuesday afternoon.

Under MECQ, establishments such as indoor dining services, beauty salons, and spas, meeting and conference venues, gaming and betting venues, and tourism establishments are no longer allowed to operate. Religious gatherings are now also prohibited, and barangay captains are strongly urged to set up checkpoints at their respective borders.

However, public transportation will still function as usual unless the Department of Transportation (DOTr) or the Land Transportation Office (LTO) says otherwise. The inbound sea and air travel ban will also be extended until the end of MECQ, but inter-municipality travel will still be allowed, but only with proper coordination. There will also be no need to get quarantine passes, according to Yap.

Yap also gave updates on the current manpower and health facilities status of the city. He explained that there are now a total of 13 quarantine facilities and 108 newly-hired healthcare workers. However, out of the 108, none were medical doctors. Currently, there are only two doctors attending to COVID-positive patients in 13 city-run facilities.

Will MECQ work this time?

City Incident Management Team (IMT) chief Dr. Dean Palanca, who was also at the briefing, expressed confidence that the 15-day MECQ is enough time to bring down active cases, but added it will not be a significant decline. He said the public needs to strictly adhere to MECQ guidelines to bring down numbers of new cases each day.

“Kung 15 days, yes, bababa yan. Pero hindi bababa nang grabeng pagbaba. MECQ was made to restrict movements ng mga tao. Pero kailangan pa ring sumunod ang mga tao. Bababa ang cases natin kung tulong-tulong tayo at maging responsible tayo sa two weeks na MECQ,” he said.

Palanca admitted that under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) for the month of May, the city was unable to reduce the number of new cases each day and bring down its mortality rate.

The city has reported 57 deaths of COVID-positive patients and 22 deaths of antigen-positive patients.

“’Yong outbreak natin hindi talaga natin na-contain. Ang mortality natin pataas nang pataas,” he said.

Palanca also said that the number of cases are not actually going down. He explained that the daily tally of RT-PCR tested patients indicates a lower count compared to the previous weeks only because these tests are only done selectively. Antigen-positive cases, he added, are already treated as COVID-19 cases.

“Akala ninyo bumababa ang ating mga kaso, hindi ganun. Ang mga tine-test sa RT-PCR ang negative sa antigen. Kasama ang mga frontliners sa tinetest sa RT-PCR. Kahapon 71 na antigen positive at hindi na ite-test sa RT-PCR kasi considered na COVID-positive,” he said.