Soccsksargen may remain under GCQ after May 31

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 May) – Region 12 or Soccsksargen may remain under general community quarantine (GCQ) after May 31 if local government units (LGUs) will collectively decide on sustaining the measure amid the continuing threats posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Secretary Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19, said Tuesday local chief executives in the area have the option, if they deem necessary, to extend the GCQ through a declaration by the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF).

In a meeting with RIATF members here, he said the NTF and the national IATF on Emerging Infectious Diseases will consider such recommendation noting that (LGUs) “know what’s best for their constituents as they were the ones on the ground.”

“If you think [it is necessary] and want to be still in GCQ then so be it. The RIATF will have to decide,” Galvez said.

He made the clarification in response to a request from Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon for a possible extension of the prevailing GCQ in the region.

Solon said the GCQ was “the best tool that we have” in terms of controlling the movement of people and at the same time continue with the reopening of the local economy.

“By prolonging the GCQ, we can open more industries, make businesses prosper and protect our people as well,” he said.

Galvez said they have initially recommended placing the entire region under modified GCQ starting June 1 after considering the area as low-risk for COVID-19 based on their assessment.

While Soccsksargen currently has a total of 24 confirmed COVID-19 cases, he said the local transmission of the disease was “weak” or “very low,” with the recorded rates at just 0.1 to 0.2 percent.

But he said the region needs to implement stricter measures due to the influx of returning Overseas Filipino Workers and residents stranded in other areas, especially with this city serving as the region’s gateway.

Galvez said the area should focus on preventing the entry or “importation” of COVID-19 from other areas with increasing cases of local transmission.

Under the omnibus guidelines on the community quarantine, he reiterated that governors may place a barangay or a portion of a municipality under lockdown if positive cases will emerge.

He said such strategy was proven effective based on the measures implemented by Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who immediately locked down barangays and even compounds after a confirmed case was detected.

Galvez said this can be applied through the adoption of the zoning concept, which sets affected areas into four zones.

These were the critical/index zone or the epicenter of the disease, containment zone, buffer zone and the outside buffer zones or the economic centers, he said.

He said LGUs should make sure that the economic centers or corridors will remain free from COVID-19 to protect the local economy.

“The important thing is for us to balance [the need to sustain] the economy and [protect] public health,” he said. (MindaNews)