DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 July) – Mindanao’s COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in three weeks, from 1,320 on July 1 to 2,815 on July 21 or 53.1% increase, mostly due to the arrival of residents from overseas or from where they were stranded – in Manila or Cebu and elsewhere in the country –- during the lockdowns since mid-March.
MindaNews collated the Mindanao statistics from the reports of five regional offices of the Department of Health in the country’s second largest island grouping and the Ministry of Health in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Out of 2,815 cases in Mindanao as of July 21, a total of 1,274 have recovered (45.2%) while 85 died (3%).
The resumption of travel by air, land and sea due to the imposition of less restrictive quarantine measures and the implementation of a series of programs — Balik Probinsya, Hatid Probinsya and the more recent Hatid Tulong Program – to bring home locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFS) with no strict health protocols implemented at the point of origin, triggered the surge in the number of cases.
On May 31, Mindanao’s total number of cases was only 597 with Davao region posting the highest at 348 followed by Zamboanga Peninsula with 160, Northern Mindanao with 30, BARMM with 27, Region 12 (Soccksargen) with 10 and Caraga eight.
By June 1, out of 27 provinces and 33 cities in Mindanao, only the cities of Davao and Zamboanga were under General Community Quarantine (GCQ0. The rest were under the less restrictive Modified GCQ (MGCQ which paved the way for opening of land borders, airports and seaports.
Bangsamoro posts highest increase, Caraga lowest
The Bangsamoro region posted the highest increase from 134 cases on July 1 to 407 on July 21 or 67.1 % while Caraga Region, the first to impose a moratorium on arrivals, posted the lowest, from 138 to 245 or 43.7% during the same period.
Out of 407 cases in the Bangsamoro region as of July 21, 126 had recovered while eight died.
On July 22, the cases rose to 411 and 416 by July 23.
Region 9 or the Zamboanga Peninsula recorded 561 cases on July 21 compared with 264 cases on July1 or an increase of 53%.
Zamboanga City which posted the highest number in the region from 220 on July 1 to 445 on July 21 or 50.6% increase, reverted to GCQ from July 16 until July 31. The city’s quarantine status had been downgraded to MGCQ from July 1 to 16.
Zamboanga City has consistently placed second to Davao City in the number of COVID-19 positives in Mindanao.
On July 21, its 445 cases represented 79.3% of the Zamboanga Peninsula region’s 561 cases.
Out of the region’s 561 cases, 216 have recovered while 12 died.
The regional Center for Health Development (CHD) has not posted its figures for July 23 but on July 22, the number of cases had risen to 582.
Zamboanga City’s quarantine status reverted to GCQ from July 16 to 31, along with Butuan City, Agusan del Norte and Basilan.
Region 10 or Northern Mindanao reported 430 cases on July 21 from only 157 on July 1 or an increase of 63.5%.
Out of 430 cases, 172 have recovered while 11 died.
Records from the CHD in Northern Mindanao show that out of 430 cases as of July 21, 373 or 86.7% are LSIs and ROFs.
The CHD posted no data on July 22 cases but its July 23 post says the number had risen to 439.
Region 11 or the Davao Region posted 993 cases as of July 21, up from 565 on July 1 or an increase of 43.1%.
Davao City maintained its number 1 standing in COVID-19 cases with 702 cases out of the Davao region’s 993 or 71% as of July 21.
Out of 993, Davao region recorded 398 active cases (40%), 552 recoveries (55.6%) and 43 deaths (4.3%).
On July 22, the number of cases in the Davao region reached 1,018 and surged to 1,064 by July 23.
Region 12 or Soccsksargen recorded 62 cases on July 1 and 179 or 65.4% increase by July 21.
Out of 179 COVID-19 positives in the region, 68 have recovered while three died with a note that two were “COVID-19-related death” and one was under the category “other cause of death.”
Region 12’s cases rose to 184 on July 22 and 195 by July 23.
Caraga was the first region that sought a moratorium on the arrival of LSIs and ROFs following the surge in their COVID-19 positives from only eight as of June 4, quickly rising to 11 on June 5, 14 on June 9, 22 on June 12, 32 on June 14, 56 on June 19 and 87 on June 22.
The IATF approved a moratorium from June 22 to July 4, allowing for a slowdown in the rise of the number of cases. Still, the region recorded a total of 245 cases as of July 21, of which 140 have been classified to have recovered, 91 of them “recovered and discharged” while 49 others were recovered “for quarantine period completion.”
Caraga’s statistics remained at 245 on July 22 and 23 but recorded its first death on July 22.
The IATF also approved the request for moratorium of Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong and Basilan Governor Jim Hataman-Salliman for a period from July 1 to 15. But the July 1 letter from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzaana, chair of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, was received by these governors only on July 6.
By then, these local government units’ health workers had been overwhelmed by the arrivals and their designated isolation facilities for quarantine could no longer accommodate the arrivals.
Basilan reckoned its 15 day-moratorium from July 6 to 21 while Lanao del Sur reckoned it from July 1 to 15.
In Lanao del Sur, the moratorium notwithstanding, the influx of returnees continued. Shiela Ganda, Lanao del Sur Inter-Agency COVID-19 Task Force focal person, said the arrivals “did not stop and every day we saw more residents arriving in Laguindingan Airport and ports of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.”
She said some 1, 441 residents arrived from July 6 to 15 which fell within the moratorium period.
The province had no new case for 49 days until the arrival of the LSIs and ROFs. From only nine cases on May 31, it surged to 84 as of June 28 and 165 by July 19.
The Hatid Tulong (Deliver Help) program, a project of the Office of the President and the Department of Transportation and Communications, brought a lot of problem instead of help to the already distressed local government units in the Bangsamoro region when the program shipped from Manila at least 405 LSIs bound for the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi on July 4 and offloaded them in Cagayan de Oro City on July 7, notifying the Bangsamoro region about their arrival only when they had docked in that city.
Cagayan de Oro City is at least half a day’s travel to Zamboanga City, the nearest port of disembarkation for the islanders.
But Zamboanga City, also overwhelmed by the arrival of 1,000 LSIs in its city, could only allow transit at the port while the governors of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi learned about the arrival in Cagayan de Oro City only when they had docked.
Bangsamoro Minister for Local Governments Naguib Sinarimbo had the 405 islanders transported instead to Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao on July 9, arriving there in the early hours of July 10 where they were swabbed first for the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) tests before they were brought to at least five isolation facilities.
The Bangsamoro region made arrangements with the Western Mindanao Command to ferry the 405 to their respective island provinces from the port in Parang, Maguindanao, on board three navy boats.
But a total of 120 persons tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force to decide all 405 will remain in Sultan Kudarat – the positives at the Cotabato Sanitarium, while the rest will be under quarantine.
In the Bangsamoro region’s statistics, the 120 positives were not added to the count of their respective provinces but were temporarily placed under a category named “Special LSIs.”
But out of the 120 “Special LSIs” who tested positive, 69 are from Basilan, 48 from Sulu and three from Tawi-tawi. When added to their respective provinces, the number of positives in Basilan as of July 21 would be 144 (from 75), Sulu 58 (from 10) and Tawi-tawi 4 (from one). (Carolyn O. Arguillas with a report from Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)