6 of 11 COVID-19 deaths in Davao region traced to cockpit derby; contact tracing has not reached “even a third”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 April) – Six of 11 deaths recorded in the Davao region out of 80 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as of 8 p.m. on April 6 have been traced to last month’s six-cock derby at the New Davao Matina Gallera, the Department of Health (DOH) regional office said in a press statement issued late Monday evening to correct an earlier pronouncement that all 11 deaths were linked to the derby.

Dr. Cleo Fe Tabada, chief of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU) of the DOH, initially told a virtual press briefing on Monday afternoon that eight of the 11 deaths of COVID-19 positives were “connected to the event sa Matina Gallera” but later corrected the figure to 11 which the DOH-Davao press statement, posted close to 11 p.m., corrected to six with exposure to the cockpit, two with history of travel from Manila, one with “exposure to a person who tested positive to COVID-19” and two “still under investigation.”

The DOH-Davao reported 80 confirmed cases, 11 deaths and 21 recoveries as of 8 p.m. on April 5 and 80 cases, 11 deaths, 22 recoveries and 47 under treatment as of 8 p.m. on April 6.

Sixty-five of the 80 cases are in Davao City, nine in Davao del Norte, three in Davao Oriental, two in Davao del Sur, one in Davao de Oro and none in Davao Occidental.

SIx-cock derby announcement on tarpaulin outside the New Davao Matina Gallera says prize pot is 26 million pesos, 17 million for the champion. MindaaNews photo by GREGORIO BUENO

The DOH press statement said 23 of the 80 cases “had exposure to Matina Gallera,” 19 had history of travel from Manila, six from other places while 32 others – at 16 each – are classified as “still under investigation” and “exposed to people who test(ed) positive for COVID-19.”

The DOH did not say if the “people who test(ed) positive” who infected the 16 were among the 23 who were infected at the cockpit.

On April 2, the DOH regional office reported only seven out of 34 persons under treatment as of April 1 were linked to the cockpit cluster, but it posted under “travel history/exposure” two sets of categories aside from “Manila” or “Matina Gallera.”

These categories are “person who have (sic) COVID-19” and “ongoing investigation.” It reported six persons were exposed to “person who have (sic) COVID-19” and nine persons whose exposure was classified “ongoing investigation.”

It did not say if the “person who have (sic) COVID-19” who infected the six, were at the derby.

MindaNews checked the COVID-19 updates of the local government units and found two of the nine classified under “ongoing investigation” – one in Matanao, Davao del Sur and the other in Tagum City – also traced their history of infection to the derby.

Ascertaining the chain of transmissions is made more difficult because DOH Davao has not released the histories of Cases 9 to 80, despite repeated demands.

Contact tracing

Confirmed COVID-19 cases traced to the cockpit cluster have been reported in Davao City, in neighboring Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur, in faraway Tubod in Lanao del Norte, in Midsayap, North Cotabato and on Tuesday, in South Cotabato, while the RESU continues tracking down thousands who went to the derby and who may have infected others.

Asked for an update on the Gallera contact tracing, Tabada reported that as of 8 p.m. on April 5, they had contact traced a total of 1,937 persons from the initial listing of 427 who could be at risk or have been exposed to an infected person, but “1,937 is not (even) a third.”

“I realized that this is not even a third. We’re not even there,” Tabada said, adding that “there were several events that we had to trace, several contacts there and they are saying, although this is yet to be verified, we need to look into 9,000 to 10,000 people.”














The RESU called on the local government units to help the DOH. “We need to widen the search and reach although so far, success is a bit slow considering we want to reach more people in a very short time so that we will be able to see the real picture,” she said.

Last week, Tabada said they were looking at around 400 people, but cockfighting aficionados from this city and from other regions who went to the derby on March 7, 10 and 12 told MindaNews that on a daily basis, the crowd in the airconditioned cockpit would start with around 300 to 400 and swell to around 3,000 at its peak, and taper off.

Primary, secondary contacts

Tabada explained that as of April 5, out of 427 initial contacts, including COVID-19 positives and persons under investigation (PUIs), 139 are in Davao City, 19 in Davao del Norte, 127 in Davao del Sur, five in Davao de Oro, 90 in Davao Oriental, one in Davao Occidental and 46 others from other regions that Tabada did not name. MindaNews asked Tabada in a text message what these regions are but she sent no reply.

From the 427, Tabada said, they were able to get 1,510 more names, 1,010 of them in Davao City, 73 in Davao del Norte, 135 in Davao del Sur, 109 in Davao de Oro, 124 in Davao Oriental, one in Davao Occidental and 58 in the other regions that Tabada did not name.

MindaNews has tracked down COVID-19 positives in Tubod, Lanao del Norte which is in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), in North Cotabato and South Cotabato which are in Region 12 or Soccsksargen.

Cockfighting aficionados told MindaNews the Manila-based “kristo” (bet-taker) who was at the derby died in Manila.

The derby, which had a prize pot of 26 million pesos, 17 million of that for the champion, attracted cockfighting aficionados from all over the country.

Biggest event

The DOH-Davao, in its “clarification on the previously announced data on today’s virtual presser,” said “427 of the 1,937 had history of exposure at Matina Gallera” but made corrections to what Tabada had earlier thoroughly explained.

It claimed that “1,510 of 1,937 are close contacts of the other COVID-19 positive people and not related to those who had exposure to Matina Gallera” even as Tabada had been specific about how they reached these numbers: 427 initial contacts who gave names to be contacted, eventually reaching 1,937. And she had a breakdown of the areas and corresponding number of primary and secondary contacts.

The DOH-regional office is not investigating any other event bigger than the cockpit cluster that would merit 1,510 “close contacts of the other COVID-19 positive people.”

The cockpit cluster is the biggest among the events that the contact tracing teams are pursuing. Tabada said the wedding and other events they were looking at as source of infection were “not that big” and that “most of the contact tracing focused at the Gallera” because “malaki-laki talaga, sinusunod talaga siya, kailangang habulin” (it’s really huge, we’re really following, we have to run after them).

“In all the events, yun (Gallera) yung pinakatutukan. Malaki talaga yung number na ito” (we are focusing on the Gallera because the numbers are really huge),” she said.

Case histories

MindaNews has repeatedly asked DOH-Davao to release the case histories of Cases 9 onwards and for subsequent updates to include the case histories to give the public a clearer view of the chain of transmissions of COVID-19.

On Sunday, April 5, MindaNews sent a text message to Dr. Annabelle Yumang, DOH-Davao director, why it was not releasing the case histories from 9 to 77 (as of April 4) when the five other regional offices in Mindanao have been releasing case details and the DOH central office has a format for the case histories.

“We will take note of your comments,” she replied.

Asked how many of the 77 cases were linked to the cockpit derby, Yumang sent no reply.

MindaNews checked the map of confirmed cases and noted that Davao de Oro’s one case – the first confirmed case in the region – and the three Davao Oriental cases – are not linked to this cockpit cluster based on their case histories.

According to their respective local government units, the two Davao del Sur cases and six of the six Davao del Norte cases as of April 2 were at the cockpit derby.

Davao del Norte now has nine cases, all from Tagum City. Dr. Arnel Florendo told MindaNews on Tuesday that of the three additional cases, two are household members of those who went to the Matina Gallera while the third was exposed to a cockpit derby in a neighboring town.

The DOH-Davao has been providing daily updates on the rising numbers of confirmed cases but without their histories. It provided the histories of Cases 1 to 6 only, all with history of travel to Manila, and gave scant details about Cases 3 to 6 except to say that PH442, PH443 and PH444 are aged 28, 32 and 50 and they all had Manila in their travel history but PH444 also traveled to Palawan and Cebu.

The DOH central office’s format on case details lists down the case number, age, sex, nationality, history of travel/exposure, date of onset of symptoms, date of admission, date of lab confirmation, admission/consultation and residence in the Philippines.

The Department of Health central office llsts the case numbers with their corresponding histories.. The DOH Davao region has yet to release the details of Cases 9 to 80.

Details of Cases 7 and 8 were provided not by DOH-Davao but by Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat, whose advisory even included flight details.

The DOH has yet to release case histories of 9 to 80 for the public to know exactly when the first case of COVID-19 infection from the cockpit was reported, when the community transmission was noted and how widespread the virus has gone.

MindaNews asked Yumang on March 29 if the region was already on its community spread phase. She did not reply. By then, the DOH-Davao had the data to confirm community transmission of the disease, but it took Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to announce it on March 30.

The regional health office, which was supposed to have alerted the public, merely confirmed on March 31 what the mayor had said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

 READ: Mayor Sara’s probe on cockpit derby: “no law violated”