Koronadal back to stricter GCQ due to spike of virus cases

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 11 September) — Due to the sudden surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases here, the local government placed the city in a more restrictive general community quarantine (GCQ) for 15 days starting 8:30 p.m. Friday, September 11, until September 25.

General Santos Drive, a main thoroughfare in Koronadal City, is deserted as the city implements “No Movement Sunday” on 19 April 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MindaNews photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

This city, the capital of South Cotabato and the Soccsksargen region seat of government, has been under the modified GCQ for months and with the new quarantine status, it restored the “no movement Sunday” and the use of color-coded movement passes for residents.

Mayor Eliordo Ogena said the City Task Force Against COVID-19 (CTFAC) decided to put the city under the stricter GCQ due to the “continuous, erratic and troubling spike of confirmed COVID-19 cases.”

“The virus is already in our midst. We have tested 27 fish vendors positive for COVID-19 who contracted the virus from the (fish port) in General Santos City,” he said in a briefing late Thursday afternoon.

Ogena considered the fish port complex, which was partially shut down from September 2 to 5 due to COVID-19 cases there to prevent the spread of the virus and for disinfection, as the epicenter of the new wave of COVID-19 infection in the region.

Dr. Editho Vego, city health officer, said the fish vendors are among the 54 COVID-19 active cases in the city recorded as of Wednesday, September 9.

The virus is spreading, he said, appealing anew to the public to help contain the disease by observing the prescribed health protocols and to stay home if they are not going out for essential needs.

According to data from the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) as of 5 p.m.  Thursday, of the 11 localities in the province, Koronadal has the highest confirmed COVID-19 cases with 83, followed by Polomolok with 56, Tupi with 25, Surallah with 20, Banga with 15, Tampakan with 12, T’boli with 11, Lake Sebu with 10, Tantangan with 9, Norala with seven and Sto. Nino with six.

South Cotabato has a total of 254 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 161 active cases, 91 recoveries and two deaths, the IPHO said.

Ogena said he did not put the city under the highly restrictive enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), as recommended by the South Cotabato Medical Society, because “he had no power to declare such based on the guidelines issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government.”

Dr. Rachelle Suarez-Uy, president of the South Cotabato Medical Society (SCMS), sought the re-imposition of ECQ for the whole province due to the rapid surge of confirmed COVID-10 cases in the area.

“We believe that we need to do drastic measures to slow down the transmission of the virus to prevent our hospital system from unwanted collapse. (We are) asking for an ECQ to halt the movement of people and slow down, if not prevent, the further spread of the virus in our locality,” she said.

Ogena said there is a need for balance between the fight to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle to keep the local economy afloat, hence they decided to place the city under GCQ rather than ECQ.

During the ECQ from March to April, most of the businesses in the city were closed, saved for the grocery stores, public market and other essential establishments such as pharmacies, banks and remittance centers, among others. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)