South Cotabato considering easing up on quarantine

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 April) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is considering easing the movement restrictions and implementing a phased reopening of the province’s economy after the end of the ongoing enhanced community quarantine on April 30.

A policeman checks on a fuel tanker in Koronadal City as South Cotabato implements enhanced community quarantine as part of local measures to fight COVID-19. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said they are currently studying various measures to slowly restart and normalize economic activities in the entire province in the coming weeks.

He said the provincial government’s inter-agency task force on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and representatives from the business sector initially agreed on such possibility in a meeting last week.

The governor said they have set at least four criteria for the reopening of the economy, including other public services.

These were the “flattening of the curve” or the reduction of cases for 14 days, availability of the province’s COVID-19 patient care center in case of an outbreak, availability of medical frontliners and personal protective equipment, and the capacity to conduct contact-tracing.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. speaks to the media regarding the province’s measures against COVID-19. File photo courtesy of the Provincial Information Office

“The province has so far flattened the curve in the past several weeks and the three confirmed COVID-19 patients were already in stable condition,” Tamayo told reporters.

The Department of Health-Region 12 reported last week that the province’s first COVID-19 positive patient (PH 2173), a 52-year-old from Tboli town who had returned home from Manila, already tested negative and recovered from the disease.

The Integrated Provincial Health Office opened last April 5 the Upper Valley Community Hospital in Surallah town as the province’s dedicated COVID-19 isolation and treatment facility.

As part of the initial preparations for the reopening of the local economy, Tamayo said they are looking at segregating businesses based on “needs and wants.”

Businesses classified as need or essential that can implement physical distancing measures may be allowed to slowly reopen on phased basis, he said.

Tamayo said he is also working on issuing an executive order within the week that will facilitate the return to normal status of all pending infrastructure projects in the province.

He said the contractors will be required to house the workers in the project sites and maintain the physical distancing protocol.

The governor said they will set measures to ensure that the delivery of aggregates and construction materials will not be hampered.

“But we have to complete the four criteria to make sure that the blind areas of risk will be shorter once we make the move. That way, we can gamble with it because we already know where we are going,” Tamayo said.

He added that the province’s boundaries will remain on lockdown after April 30 and expects that the local government will have a clearer picture by then as to the other activities that can be allowed. (MindaNews)