Polomolok placed under modified ECQ as it grapples with first COVID-19 case

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 May) – The provincial government of South Cotabato placed the entire municipality of Polomolok under modified enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for seven days effective Wednesday after one of its residents tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said the move, which was issued through Executive Order No. 29 released on Tuesday, was aimed to facilitate the faster tracking of all individuals who had close contact with the 25-year-old male patient.

During the modified ECQ, he said health workers will trace all direct and secondary contacts of the patient, and subject them to mandatory quarantine and isolation.

Under the EO, the movement of residents is generally restricted and only essential workers are allowed to go out of their homes.

Only tricycles with special permits issued by the barangays were allowed to operate but under strict routes and limited number, and all other modes of public transportation were banned until the end of the quarantine period on May 26.

Essential businesses like pharmacies, food establishments and others providing basic services will be allowed to open and will strictly observe the 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.

Polomolok Mayor Honey Lumayag-Matti said in an interview that they modified ECQ expanded the preemptive lockdown they implemented in Barangay Rubber last Monday, a day after the patient from the village was confirmed positive for COVID-19.

She said the seven-day modified ECQ was requested by the municipal council thorough a resolution approved last Monday.

Matti said that as of Wednesday, the Municipal Health Office (MHO) has already tracked down nearly 200 close contacts of the patient, and subjected them to rapid tests and isolation.

“None of them tested positive but we recommended some of them to undergo swab collection for the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) testing,” she said.

The mayor said the identified “first generation” contacts comprise family members and other individuals who had engagements with the patient.

She said the MHO and barangay health emergency response team were still tracing persons who possibly had contact with the patient when he underwent checkup for tuberculosis in clinics in Polomolok and this city.

Matti said the COVID-19 patient, who has no history of travel outside the province and this city, remains in stable condition and undergoing strict quarantine at the municipal isolation facility.

He was the fourth confirmed COVID-19 case in South Cotabato. All three previous patients have fully recovered.

She urged residents to fully cooperate and strictly observe proper health and safety protocols, especially the wearing of face masks in public and the practice of safe physical distancing.

“We should always protect ourselves and the best thing to do right now is to just stay home,” she added. (MindaNews)