KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 9 April) – Local chief executives and heads of national government agencies in Soccsksargen or Region 12, home to at least 4.5 million people, have agreed to extend the regional lockdown until April 30 in a bid to curb the growing cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in the area, officials confirmed Thursday.
Josephine Leysa, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Region 12 director, said in a statement released Wednesday night the decision was made during a virtual meeting on Tuesday of the joint Regional Inter-Agency Task Group (RITG) and the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RTF) on CoVid-19.
She said the joint body passed Resolution 2020-006, which enjoined LGUs in the region “to extend the enhanced community quarantine until April 30, 2020.”
Leysa said the extension, which was pushed by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo S. Tamayo, was mainly considered due to the noted spike in confirmed Covid-19 cases on the region, which already reached 15 and with one fatality as of Wednesday afternoon.
She said the other noted factors were the trends in the Covid-19 epidemiological curve, the capacity of the health care systems and facilities in the region as well as social, economic and security factors.
She noted that the positive cases of some of those who attended the six-cock derby in Davao City last month had been considered by the governors, mayors and agency heads in prolonging the enhanced community quarantine in the region until the end of the month.
At least three confirmed Covid-19 cases in the region – one each in South Cotabato, North Cotabato and in General Santos City – involved individuals who attended the big-time derby at the New Matina Gallera.
Health authorities have been repeatedly calling out attendees from the region of the ill-fated derby, which has been linked to a number of Covid-19 deaths and positive cases, to come forward to ensure proper monitoring.
The extension of the regional lockdown was contained in Resolution No. 2020-006 entitled “A Resolution Enjoining Region XII LGUs to Extend the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) until April 30, 2020,” which was approved on the motion from South Cotabato Governor Reynaldo Tamayo, Jr., and seconded by Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon.
To complement with the extension of the enhanced community quarantine, Solon moved for the conduct of more testing for Covid-19 in the region and the faster release of the results.
He cited that although some areas, including his province, have posted zero positive cases, it was mainly due to the low testing capacity or “lack of testing kits and the equally longer timeframe for the release of the results.”
“Some members of the group, especially the local chief executives, were actually considering the return to normalcy of some economic activities but relented after looking at the bigger picture in Region 12,” Leysa said.
The lockdown’s extension took cognizance of the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to extend the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon until April 30 from the original April 12.
Under the existing lockdown policy of Soccsksargen, non-residents are banned from entering the region at border checkpoints manned by law enforcers. However, transport of food and other essential consumer supplies are accorded unhampered access.
Based on the 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, data from the DOH-12, three more persons under investigation (PUIs) died, all ageing over 60 years old, while awaiting the results of laboratory tests for Covid-19.
It brought to 14 the total deaths involving PUIs in the region, with one testing positive for COVID-19, six negative, five still pending while two have no specimens.
The total confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Region 12 climbed to 15 as of Wednesday afternoon, with two new cases tagged as PH 3772, a 59-year-old male from Koronadal City in South Cotabato with travel history to Cebu who is in a stable condition and under strict home quarantine, and PH 3774, 58, from Cotabato City, with travel history to Davao City who is in a stable condition and under strict home quarantine.
For the whole region as of Wednesday afternoon, at least 25 PUIs remained admitted, 54 were discharged, 89 under home quarantine and 38 have completed their home quarantine, DOH-12 reported.
Sarangani still has no confirmed Covid-19 case as of April 8, with Solon attributing it to the “lack of testing kits and the equally longer time for the release of the results,” according to the statement from DILG-12.
In as far as food supplies are concerned, South Cotabato’s Tamayo noted the region could rely on its own for a period of time given that the area is agriculturally productive.
“Besides fertile productive agricultural lands, piggeries and poultry, we have the seas for the fisheries needs of people in the region,” he said.
The entire region was initially placed under general community quarantine last March 23 based on a joint resolution passed by the Regional Peace and Order Council and the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The measure, which was upgraded by the LGUs to enhanced community quarantine, includes the observance of synchronized curfew and the lockdown of the region’s border highways.
The RTF-12, which is composed of local chief executives and headed by Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu, was tasked to handle the operational side of the heightened quarantine.
RITG-12, which is chaired by the DOH, serves as the policy-making body for the region’s Covid-19 efforts. (MindaNews/ with reports from Bong S. Sarmiento)