Lights out: Crowd in ‘PasKoronadal’ launching flouts distancing protocol

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 9 Dec) – With the crowd ballooning beyond control, the local government here halted Tuesday night the unveiling of the “Christmas village” in front of the city hall ground for fear of spreading the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Koronadal City Hall ground lights up during the launching of the PasKoronadal 2020 Tuesday night (8 December 2020). The event, however, was halted as the crowd failed to observe proper distancing to fight the spread of COVID-19. Photo from the FB page of the City Government of Koronadal

Shortly past 8 p.m., the local government pulled out the plug during the dazzling opening of the PasKoronadal 2020 Festival, the centerpiece of which is the lighting of the colorful giant Christmas lantern, to the chagrin of thousands of spectators.

Mayor Eliordo Ogena said the humongous crowd, eager to pose for photographs, overwhelmed the security and health personnel deployed to the event to implement the protocols for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The physical distancing protocol for the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer followed by the spectators. I have no other recourse but to stop the showcasing of our Christmas village,” he said in a radio interview.

“I don’t want this spectacle to result in the spike of COVID-19 cases in the city. I halted the event to avoid compromising the safety of our people,” the mayor added.

He noted the opening salvo was a “success,” except for the flouting of the physical distancing measure against the virus.

The launching of the Christmas festival caused traffic snarl in front of the city hall, which is located along the six-lane national highway.

Recently, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque came under fire after the crowd in an event he attended in Bantayan Island, Cebu failed to observe physical distancing. However, the event, which Senator Manny Pacquiao also graced, was not halted or the throng dispersed. The police conducted an investigation, but the results were not released to the public.

Starting Wednesday night, the local government of Koronadal will implement village clustering for visitors to the Christmas village, and will require them to present QR codes for contract tracing purposes.

Ogena reminded the people who will visit the Christmas village to always observe social distancing and wear face masks and face shields.

The PasKoronadal 2020 is themed “ Paskong Handog ng Bagong Koronadal, Pag-asa at Katatagan.”

In Executive Order 99 Series of 2020 which Ogena earlier issued for the staging of the PasKoronadal 2020, he stressed the city government “cannot just let a blind eye and let this misery freely pass and engulf its inhabitants,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Tuesday evening, December 8, Koronadal recorded 471 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 405 recoveries, 10 deaths and 56 active cases, data from the provincial health office showed.

It has the largest COVID-19 cases among South Cotabato’s 11 localities.

Koronadal is the capital of South Cotabato and the seat of government of Soccsksargen or Region 12, which also straddles the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Tacurong and Kidapawan. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)