GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) — Officials here announced Monday that the city is back to the general community quarantine (GCQ) status in fighting the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic starting 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, 25 May, until 30 June 2021.
Under the new classification, malls and department stores will be closed except for groceries and supermarkets and other essential stores while cockfighting, nightclubs, pubs and other similar entertainment establishments will not be allowed to operate, lawyer Arnel Zapatos, city administrator, said.
Eateries and restaurants are only to serve take-out or to-go orders and no dine-ins, he said.
An existing liquor ban will also be in effect until June 30, he added.
With the GCQ guidelines, mass gatherings will not be allowed and residents are advised to refrain from holding milestone celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries. For weddings and baptismal events, guests are limited only to the very immediate of kin and must not exceed ten persons.
Zapatos said barangays will be clustered and market days will be scheduled twice a week per cluster. The same schedule will be followed by banks in accommodating clients.
Checkpoints will be set up to prevent people from moving from one barangay cluster to the other during the duration of the GCQ.
“We may not be 100 percent perfect on this, but if we are able to reduce by 50 percent the number of people going out of their home, then we may be able to make a significant step in out effort to fight the spread of COVID-19,” the official said in a press briefing.
With this development, the local Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for COVID-19 revoked and cancelled all mass gathering permits that have been issued.
Dr. Rochelle Gajete-Oco, head of the local IATF head, said they arrived at the decision to revert the quarantine classification to GCQ to avoid overwhelming the city’s health system capacity.
“We can’t risk a collapse of our health system capacity, because that will put the whole city and the nearby provinces dependent on us in jeopardy,” Oco said.
On Sunday, the local IATF reported that all seven major hospitals in the city were already 100 percent full, 83.33 percent of which are COVID-19 positive cases. Of this number, 69 percent are from this city while the rest are from nearby towns in South Cotabato and Sarangani.
The report also said that 89.5 percent of the 23 ICU (intensive care unit) beds are now in use. Of the 14 mechanical ventilators in the city, only one remains and is being reserved for severely critical patients.