South Cotabato tightens lockdown; frontliners not exempted

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 27 March) – Except those bringing food and essential consumer supplies, South Cotabato started banning the entry even of medical frontliners and residents unless they would agree to a mandatory 14-day home quarantine, Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said Friday.

In a press briefing, the official said he imposed the more stringent measure following the deaths of a confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patient in nearby Sultan Kudarat province and another person under investigation (PUI) in adjoining General Santos City.

P/Col Jemuel F Siason, Officer-In-Charge of South Cotabato PPO inspects a checkpoint in Barangay Palian, Tupi in South Cotabato on Saturday, 21 March 2020, as part of the implementation of Executive Order (E.O) 18 signed by Governor Reynaldo S. Tamayo, jr. which placed the entire province of South Cotabato under Enhance Community Quarantine and calibrated lockdown. Photo courtesy of the FB page of PRO12 South Cotabato 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company

“We cannot sacrifice the one million residents of South Cotabato against the few who are insisting to enter the province. This is the only drastic measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease, a deadly invisible enemy,” he said.

Owing to the stricter implementation of the lockdown now after it was imposed seven days ago, Tamayo noted that several powerful persons have called him to allow them or their relatives entry to the province.

He said the province is “reaping the initial fruits” of the lockdown with the identification of PUIs and the persons under monitoring (PUMs) across the province.

This makes contract tracing of suspected COVID-19 cases easier for our health workers, Tamayo noted.

For the amended lockdown rules, Tamayo stressed that even medical workers will not be allowed to enter South Cotabato unless they will undergo a 14-day quarantine.

He urged those seeking medical services outside of the province to get treatment from medical facilities in South Cotabato.

If that is not possible, they would be allowed to get back to the province but they will be strictly quarantined, Tamayo said.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office chief, said the stringent lockdown measures are essential for the public’s health and called on the residents to follow the orders of the provincial government.

“Again and again, please stay home to help us fight this coronavirus disease,” he said.

As of Friday morning, Aturdido stressed that South Cotabato was still COVID-19 free.

Out of the 31 PUIs, 16 have been tested negative of the coronavirus and were sent home, Aturdido said.

He said they are still waiting for the laboratory results of the 15 other PUIs whose samples were sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City on March 19.

Of the 2,508 PUMs, 1,307 have already completed their 14-day home quarantine, he added.

Tamayo said the province is purchasing 5,000 sets of personal protective equipment for use by the staff manning the undisclosed quarantine facility in case COVID-19 rears its ugly head in the province. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)