KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 19 March) – The entire city will be placed under general community quarantine starting March 23 as officials and health authorities struggle over the unavailability of testing kits for the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
City Mayor Eliordo Ogena ordered the move through Executive Order (EO) No. 35 issued on Wednesday night as a control measure in response to the increasing confirmed cases and spread of the deadly disease in parts of the country.
He said that despite the absence of confirmed cases in the area, the continued threat cannot be taken lightly due to the lack of testing kits to determine the exact degree of community infection.
“There is a need to be pro-active pending the availability of the testing kits and essential medical protective gears to prevent the possibility of community infection,” he said.
But the mayor clarified that the move is not a total lockdown as they don’t want to completely close down the borders of the city, which is the regional administrative seat and center of Region 12.
He said it will enhance the preemptive lockdown implemented starting last Monday in the entire province of South Cotabato due to the Covid-19 threat.
Ogena said the Regional Peace and Order Council and the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which jointly convened here on Wednesday, recommended the implementation of enhanced measures by local government units against the disease.
Based on the guidelines for the general community quarantine set in EO 35, only residents of the city will be allowed to enter the area when it takes effect on March 23, subject to identification requirements.
Ogena said frontline workers, civil servants and others whose work involves the delivery of basic services are exempted.
The passage of all vehicles containing medicine and supplies, food and commodities for human and animal consumption will remain unhampered, he said.
The mayor said persons that would be allowed to enter the city will be subject to information-tracking at the checkpoints and should observe proper disinfection measures.
He said persons exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms shall not be allowed to enter unless they are seeking medical emergency and shall be properly escorted.
“Non-essential travels within and around the city is strictly prohibited and all constituents are directed to stay home,” he said.
Ogena said all sports, recreational activities and other forms of mass gatherings of whatever nature will be prohibited and social distancing should be strictly complied at all times in all private and public places.
He said they delayed its full implementation until March 23 to give enough time for residents who were still stranded in other areas to return home.
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, the city has a total of 246 persons under monitoring (PUM) and undergoing home quarantine while 27 have already been cleared.
A situation report released by the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office’s (IPHO) epidemiology and surveillance unit said the city has two patients under investigation (PUI) for Covid-19 and their laboratory confirmation was still pending.
The Socomedics Medical Center here temporarily closed down its emergency and outpatient department for 24 hours starting 11 a.m. Wednesday due to exposure with a PUI. It said the patient was immediately isolated and referred to the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital.
In the entire South Cotabato province, the number of PUMs undergoing home quarantine has increased to 1,412 while 256 have completed the observation protocol without exhibiting any sign and symptom of the disease.
A total of eight PUIs are currently admitted in various local hospitals and seven were listed as discharged.
But the report said only five of the patients have been so far tested negative and the 10 other were still waiting laboratory confirmation.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., IPHO chief, said in a briefing that the test results for the other PUIs are currently pending due to the lack of available flights that will deliver the samples to laboratories in Metro Manila.
He said they were also facing a problem with the limited number of available swab kits to extract samples from the patients.
Aturdido added they are hoping that the Department of Health can fast track the establishment of a laboratory for Covid-19 tests at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. (MindaNews)