Former national IATF medical advisor Dr. Tony Leachon during his Facebook live briefing. Leachon regularly broadcasts his takes on the national government's response to the COVID-19 crisis and to answer questions that social media followers can ask.

Former medical advisor to the National Inter-Agency Task Force (NIATF) Dr. Tony Leachon said “drastic measures” are needed to alleviate the current COVID-19 situation in Palawan, wherein some researchers have noted its high “positivity rate”.

He also stated that the surge in active cases in the municipalities, which are now 362 as of May 18, may have been caused by the March 13 Palawan plebiscite.

Earlier this week, Dr. Guido David of the OCTA Research Group said in a live interview with a national media outlet that Palawan has a 67% positivity rate, while Puerto Princesa has a 77% positivity rate.

These numbers are much higher compared to the National Capital Region, which OCTA stated is at 12%.

Leachon stated on Monday evening in a live Facebook broadcast that one possible explanation to the spike in cases in Palawan could have all stemmed from the March 13 Palawan plebiscite, wherein travel measures were much more relaxed and where people flocked to polling stations to vote.

“Ito ay political gatherings na nagsimula nito. ‘Yong plebisito noong nakaraang ilang linggo at mga locally stranded individuals na naka-land. At hindi rin natin alam kung may mga foreigners na nandito. Angtaas nitong 67% positivity rate, ibig sabihin, seven out of 10. Kung pumunta kayo sa Palawan ngayon, ganyan katindi. So, kailangan may gawing drastic measure ang government dito. Ito ba ay magpapalit ng quarantine [classification]? Because this is important,” he said.

Leachon, however, did not specify how the OCTA came up with these numbers. He also did not elaborate on how the plebiscite may have caused the surge in new cases.

Coron Is now the town with the most number of active cases at 77, followed by Bataraza at 61 and Culion at 54, according to the latest tally by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO). There are also a total of 15 deaths in the municipalities.

Leachon also advised viewers on his Facebook live video not to visit the province for tourism because of the high positivity rate.

While tourism is still technically allowed in the province being under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), inbound travel is still suspended in Puerto Princesa City until May 31.

Flights to El Nido for tourists via local airline Airswift are also still suspended until the end of the month. Only national government officials and returning overseas workers who have secured their needed papers are exempted from the ban.

“Sa ngayon huwag muna kayong pupunta ng Palawan because the positivity rate is very high. Huwag munang mag-e-El Nido, huwag munang magco-Coron. Yan ang alert ko sa inyo,” he added.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.