Sara fears lifting of ECQ in other areas of Davao Region may increase COVID-19 cases

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 April) – Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said the downgrading of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to general community quarantine (GCQ) in four provinces of Davao Region would increase the number of individuals infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), raising fears it would “overwhelm” the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) with new cases.

Duterte said during her live interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR) 87.5 that unlike the ECQ, the implementation of the less-restrictive GCQ would allow people to move around freely, risking exposure to individuals who are infected with COVID-19.

“We can expect that the SPMC would be overwhelmed because there are areas in our region that are no longer covered by the ECQ, meaning the people there are free to move around in a general community quarantine setup. In that kind of setup, there will be more people who will test positive,” she warned.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) initially identified Davao City and the provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro as “high-risk areas” in Mindanao, recommending the extension of ECQ until May 15.

But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced on Tuesday that the provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro were stricken off the list of high-risk areas, and may proceed, instead, with the implementation of GCQ starting May 1.

The Davao Region, which recorded a total of 129 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, the highest in Mindanao, comprises the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur, Davao de Oro, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental, and the chartered City of Davao.

Except for Davao City, other provinces in the region have not recorded new cases for several weeks.

Duterte, however, said that Davao de Oro Governor Jayvee Uy would sustain the ECQ until May 15. The decision to shift to GCQ or sustain ECQ in provinces not in the high-risk list of the IATF-MEID is left to their respective provincial governors, according to Duterte.

Aside from SPMC, Duterte feared that the Davao Regional Medical Center (DRMC) in Tagum City may likewise get overwhelmed with positive patients with the expected shift to GCQ since these two government-run hospitals are the medical institutions authorized to accommodate COVID-19 cases.

“Since only the DRMC and SPMC in the region could accept [COVID-19 cases], the infected would go there, especially those who need critical care,” the mayor noted.

In anticipation of the sudden surge in cases, Duterte said the city might need more facilities to house more COVID-19 patients.

Duterte said the local government is preparing three private hospitals in the city to turn them into COVID-19 centers in case the SPMC would no longer be able to accommodate additional infected patients. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)