DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) — When President Rodrigo Duterte declared evening of March 12 a month-long lockdown of Metro Manila and banned travel to and from Metro Manila effective March 15, the purpose, he said, was “to protect and defend you .. .from COVID-19.” He later expanded the coverage to the entire Luzon.
The intent of the lockdown was to contain the disease from spreading. By March 12, the country had 54 confirmed cases, mostly in Metro Manila. One of the 54 was Mindanao’s first confirmed case, PH40, who had recently arrived from Metro Manila, was brought to a private hospital in Iligan City on March 3, moved to a state-run hospital in Cagayan de Oro on March 8 and expired on March 13.
By March 19, the number of confirmed cases had reached 217 nationwide. By March 20, the number rose to 230.
At least four of these cases were recorded in Mindanao, two of them dead (PH40 who died in a Cagayan de Oro hospital on March 13 and PH 201 who died in a Marawi City hospital on March 17), two of them recovering (PH130 in a Tagum City hospital and PH145 in a Cotabato City hospital). (see other story)
Also in Mindanao, at least eight persons under investigation (PUIs) have died, three in the Davao region, three in Northern Mindanao and two in Region 12. Hospitals are still awaiting results of their laboratory tests sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Manila.
“So what we are trying to control is people with COVID at tapos ‘yung ilayo natin ‘yung healthy ones. Sila ‘yung i-target natin, not for anything, but for their own good,” Duterte said on March 12.
When authorities in Wuhan, China, Ground Zero of COVID-19, announced a lockdown at 2 a.m. on January 23, they gave residents an eight-hour notice that transportation by land, sea and air would be suspended by 10 a.m.
President Duterte gave at least 48 hours notice on the transport suspension, triggering an exodus to the provinces of thousands of returning residents who are potential virus carriers. The Department of Health (DOH) classifies them as “persons under monitoring.”
The surge in arrivals from the national capital posed a problem to local government units in Mindanao, where health care facilities are not as equipped as Metro Manila’s
Even Davao City, the hometown of President Duterte and the premiere city in Mindanao, has limitations in health care facilities and while the state-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) has been designated as the satellite laboratory for Mindanao COVID-19 cases, the testing kits arrived only on Wednesday and only a hundred kits were sent by the central office, to serve Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.
“We are facing a public health emergency on two fronts: the Covid19 and the limitations of our health facilities to respond to a huge segment of our population getting infected with the coronavirus,” Mayor Sara Duerte said in her March 15 address to residents, explaining the move to declare a “community quarantine.”
“We do not have any confirmed cases as of the moment, but it will not be long before the reality of the disease will reach our doorsteps. And if many of us get sick, our city will be paralyzed and will be at a standstill. We need to ensure that no one gets sick and if we do get patients, we need to be able to respond to them and at the same time, prevent the further spread of the disease,” she added.
From 50 to 96 PUIs, from 717 to 5,403 PUMs in Davao region
In the Davao region which comprises the five Davao provinces – de Oro, del Norte, del Sur, Occidental and Oriental and the cities of Davao, Digos, Mati, Panabo, Samal and Tagum – the number of Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) rose from 50 on March 15 to 96 on March 19 while the number of Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) increased more than seven times, from 717 on March 15 to 5,403 on March 19.
PUIs are those with signs and symptoms of fever, cough and/or colds and with travel history or residence in a country/area with reported local transmission of COVID-19 while PUMs are those with no signs and symptoms but have a travel history or residence in a country/area with reported local transmission of COVID-19.
DOH Davao director Annabelle Yumang attributes the spike to “awareness” and because “we have also many people coming in from Metro Manila” following the announcement of a lockdown there.
Yumang said those who arrived from Manila are all considered PUMs.
“Daghan baya kaayo … daghan kaayo gikan sa Manila (There were so many… there were so many who came from Manila), she told reporters via online press conference on Thursday afternoon. Yumang said they must undergo “strict home quarantine” for 14 days.
Yumang explained that since there are PUMs, “nag-increase pud atong PUIs kay naay uban ana nga nagkasakit pud” (the number of PUIs also increased because some of them got sick).
Among the 96 PUIs, 59 are admitted in hospitals. Among the 5,403 PUMs, 4,818 are “under observation” or those asked to be on “strict home quarantine,” while 584 have been “cleared”
DOH Assistant Secretary Roy Ferrer said the increase reflects the “success ng information dissemination,” and the awareness of the people to enlist themselves as PUMs or PUIs.
The Department of Interior and Local Government, Yumang said, has activated the health emergency response team assistance to enforce “strict monitoring” of the arrivals on a daily basis.
“For strict home quarantine,” Yumang told MindaNews on Friday, “the person must stay in his/her room alone if possible with toilet and bath for 14 days.”
The returning residents who have been asked to go on “strict home quarantine” for 14 days, are staying with family members who, under a city under “community quarantine,” are mandated to stay home.
Not all of them have individual rooms with toilet and bath.
In South Cotabato, the lockdown in Metro Manila was also pointed as the cause behind the surge in the number of PUMs to 1,218 as of March 17 and 1,668 as of March 19, according to the Integrated Provincial Health Office. Twenty two persons were listed as PUIs, 13 admitted in hospitals and nine discharged.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, provincial health chief, said the sudden increase in the number of PUMs was due to the influx of residents who came home from Metro Manila.
South Cotabato is part of Region 12. But Region 12’s figures as of March 19, according to the DOH regional office 41 PUIs, 21 of them in the hospitals, and 857 PUMs, 738 of them undergoing quarantine.
DOH region 12 reported one PUI death – an 87-year old male from Sultan Kudarat on March 14 while Aturdido on Friday said a PUI died in Koronadal City on March 17. The results of the laboratory tests have yet to be released by RITM.
Mindanao tally: 436 PUIs and 16,988 PUMs
MindaNews tallied the reports from the regional health offices of 9 (Zamboanga), 10 (Northern Mindanao), 11 (Davao), 12 (Soccsksargen) and Caraga and from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Inter-agency Task Force on COVID-19 that as of March 19, they have recorded a total of two deaths of confirmed COVID-19 cases (436 PUIs and 16,988 PUMs.
Of 436 PUIs, Northern Mindanao posted the highest number at 158, followed by Davao region with 96, Zamboanga with 64, Bangsamoro with 64, Soccsksargen with 41 and Caraga with 13.
Of 16,988 PUMs, the Davao region topped with 5,403 followed by Caraga with 3,973; Zamboanga with 2,99; Bangsamoro with 2,275; Northern Mindanao with 1,589; and Soccsargen with 857.
In Northern Mindanao, out of 158 PUIs, 17 are admitted in hospitals, 111 are on home quarantine, 10 are done with the quarantine and 17 have been discharged from the hospitals. Out of 1,589 PUMs, 484 are undergoing quarantine while 1,105 are “due 14-day self-quarantine.”
In Caraga region, the number of PUIs as of March 14 was only four with zero PUMs. On March 15, it rose to five PUIs and 179 PUMs. By March 19, the number of PUIs had reached 13 and the PUMs at 3,873 with 3,596 ongoing home quarantine.
In Zamboanga region, there were nine PUIs and 309 PUMs as of March 15. By March 19, the number of PUIs had reached 64 and the PUMs at 2,991.
In the BARMM, there were seven PUIs as of March 16 and 36 PUMs as of March 16. By March 19, the number of PUIs had risen to 64 and the PUMs to 2,275.
Most of Mindanao’s provinces and cities are on community quarantine and total lockdowns. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews