Davao City docs call for 2-week lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 November) – Davao City must be placed under a two-week lockdown immediately as the healthcare system here  “is overwhelmed” with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, a Davao City-based medical practitioner said.

Cardiologist Dr. Bernard Chiew, chair of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) national committee on external affairs and President of PCP-Southern Mindanao chapter from 2005 to 2006, in a public post on his Facebook page on Sunday said a lockdown would help the healthcare system recover  with COVID-19 isolation center of government-owned Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) and private hospitals are “close to full capacity most of the time.”

Chiew echoed the sentiments expressed by an organization of doctors and medical directors in the city’s private hospitals for a lockdown.

Mayor Sara Duterte’s Executive Order 62 issued on November 13 on guidelines on the prohibition of non-essential travel acknowledged the surge in COVID-19 cases in the city, attributing it to the  “innumerable activities allowed during a Modified General Community Quarantine.”

The EO also noted the need to control the cases in the city because of the “full occupancy of the COVID-19 beds” in the SPMC and the “almost full capacity of COVID-19 wards of other hospitals.”

Within this two-week period, Chiew explained that all individuals will be assumed to be  COVID-19-positive, requiring all persons to stay at home to recover and prevent spreading the infection to others.

He said lockdowns were effective in putting the surge in Cebu and Manila under control.

Healthcare systeme overwhelmed

“All these point to one obvious fact: our healthcare system is overwhelmed. That’s why the medical community called for a lockdown to arrest this COVID surge so that the healthcare system of Davao can recover.  That’s the whole point of the call for a lockdown,” he said.

He said sustaining lower cases needs discipline.

Chiew was alarmed that as new cases are hitting record highs, isolation centers are starting to bring in double-decked beds to increase their capacity, delays in picking up COVID-19 patients to be brought to SPMC and isolation facilities have been noted, and healthcare workers are getting infected with the disease.

“Healthcare workers are getting sick. Many doctors and nurses have been COVID patients themselves. Opening up more hospitals and centers is out of the question since staffing is now a problem,” he said.

As of November 14, Davao City reported 5,114 cases, comprising 69% of the 7,361 total COVID-19 cases in the region, according to the Department of Health-Davao.

Of this figure, 387 cases were recorded in Davao de Oro, 797 in Davao del Norte, 561 in Davao del Sur, 110 in Davao Occidental, and 392 in Davao Oriental.

Davao Region, which tops the number of cases among Mindanao’s six regions, has 2,281 active, 4,822  recoveries, and 258 deaths, DOH-Davao said.

Out of 5,114 cases in Davao City,  1,762 are active; 3,142 are recoveries and 216 are deaths.

Bleak scenario

At the rate COVID-19 situation is going, Chiew said: “It won’t be long for us to see COVID patients on stretchers outside of hospital entrances waiting for vacant beds or for healthcare workers having to play God in choosing whom to give the limited ventilators to.”

He said medical workers understand the implication of imposing a lockdown on the local economy, which would be costly on the part of the local government.

“The economic impact is tremendous. But I refuse to believe Davao does not have the money to assist the communities. If the Davao City Council can allot money for Davao thru the Mayor to extend help to Typhoon victims in Luzon, I’m pretty sure we have the money to help our very own for two weeks,” he added.

Last Friday, Dr. Ashley Lopez, focal person for COVID-19 of DOH in the city, said the city government, which derives its income from the business sector, could not sustain if it were to provide support to the affected persons, particularly food assistance and other forms of subsidy for the duration of a stricter quarantine status.

“In my point of view, there are economic considerations that we should think about when we try to impose something, especially MECQ (Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine)  or ECQ (Enhanced Community Quarantine). It will compromise so many, and primarily it will affect the business sector… What will we sustain for the people? If you impose ECQ or MECQ, you have to provide for each and everyone,” he added.

He said local authorities have been in the thick of things on what possible options to address the problem without resorting to ECQ  or modified ECQ.

Health and economy

Chiew said the medical community would be put to shame if it erred in  recommend a lockdown, and it would be costly on the government, but he maintained that this would not result in additional victims of COVID-19.

“Kung ang political leaders magkamali sa desisyon na di mag- lockdown, mas maraming magkakasakit at mamamatay!” (If the political leaders err in deciding against a lockdown, more people will get sick and die!), Chiew stressed.

“If we delay making decisions about COVID-19 control measures, eventually the virus will force us to make them, maybe not now but a few weeks later. Eventually, it will be the political leaders who will have to make the call. The medical community can only recommend,” he added.

Duterte, in her “special hour” over the city-run Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5)  on  Friday said the recommendation of the private doctors to put the city under a stricter quarantine status must be raised with the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force for COVID-19 (RIATF).

Duterte said that the RIATF, chaired by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Davao director Alex C. Roldan, has been delegated with the authority to make a classification and impose a quarantine status on a local government unit (LGU).

“It was not a request. It was a recommendation. We told them to raise their recommendation with the RIATF because it’s the correct body to discuss, recommend, and impose community quarantine for the LGU… Much like before, when IATF was the one making the announcement on the community quarantine classifications of cities and municipalities. Such function has been delegated to the RIATF,” she said.

The local chief executive said the local government did not receive an “appeal” for a “timeout” from the medical frontliners.

She added the letter was a “recommendation” from the members of Davao Medical Society for a “lockdown.”

The RIATF convened a meeting with doctors and attended by the mayor on Saturday afternoon but whatwas resolved during the meeting has not been made public.  (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)