Davao City wants 25-day MECQ as COVID-19 cases surge

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 2 June) – The City Government of Davao confirmed Wednesday that it requested the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to put the city under a 25-day Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) beginning June 5 until the end of the month amid the surge in new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections.

Community surveillance swab testing in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by MANMAN DEJETO

In a post on social media, the local government announced that it asked for a stricter quarantine classification to “allow a circuit breaker in the surge of patients inside the hospitals.”

This came only two days after President Rodrigo R. Duterte extended the GCQ status of the city until the end of this month.

From April 4 to May 15, 2020, the city was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), GCQ from May 16 until June 30, and Modified GCQ (MGCQ) from July 1 to November 19. It reverted to GCQ on November 20, 2020 until now.

Pending approval from IATF-EID, the local authorities asked the public to review in advance the quarantine guidelines under MECQ while the workers, who will be affected, have been told to coordinate with the City Mayor’s Special Project Office in Magsaysay Park for the employment assistance program.

Based on the IATF-EID quarantine guidelines dated May 20, 2021, any person below 18 years old, those who are over 65 of age, those with immunodeficiency, comorbidity, or other health risks, and pregnant women shall be required to remain in their residences at all times, except for obtaining essential goods and services, or for work in industries and offices or such other permitted activities. Local government units may relax the minimum age range down to 15, depending on the COVID-19 situation in their respective jurisdictions.

Establishments not permitted to operate during MECQ include entertainment venues with live performers such as karaoke bars, bars, clubs, concert halls, theaters, and cinemas; recreational venues such as internet cafés, billiard halls, amusement arcades, bowling alleys, and similar venues; amusement parks or theme parks, fairs/peryas, kid amusement industries such as playgrounds, playroom, and kiddie rides; outdoor sports courts or venues for contact sports, scrimmages, games, or similar activities; indoor sports courts or venues, fitness studios, gyms, spas or other indoor leisure centers or facilities, and swimming pools.

Operations of the following establishments are also prohibited: casinos, horse racing, cockfighting and operation of cockpits, lottery and betting shops, and other gaming establishments except for the draws conducted by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office; indoor visitor or tourist attractions, libraries, archives, museums, galleries, and cultural shows and exhibits; outdoor tourist attractions; venues for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions; personal care services which include beauty salons, beauty parlors, medical aesthetic clinics, cosmetic or derma clinics, make-up salons, nail spas, reflexology, aesthetics, wellness, and holistic centers, and other similar establishments; acupuncture and electrocautery establishments, and massage therapy including sports therapy establishments; and indoor dine-in services of food preparation establishments such as commissaries, restaurants, and eateries.

Department of Health (DOH)-Davao reported 338 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total cases to 17,337, with 1,912 active cases, 14,665 recoveries, and 760 deaths.

Dr. Ashley Lopez, acting head of the City Health Office, told Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR) Wednesday that those new cases were compounded from May 28 to 31 as result of the series of heightened community testing.

The health official suspected that the sudden spike in COVID-19 cases could have been caused by the presence of an “undetected” variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the infection.

He said that he was alarmed that the increase in new COVID-19 cases is sudden, and not gradual.

“I cannot confirm this year but I suspect that there is a variant that’s going around because the increase in new cases is very fast… we have yet to receive a report from Philippine Genome Center. I believe it is because it’s seven times faster than what we had last October and November,” he said.

He surmised that this might have been caused by returning residents from Luzon and Visayas who came home by land to the city when National Capital Region and Cebu grappled with COVID-19 surge.

The Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) reported Wednesday that its 77-bed intensive care unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients have been fully occupied while 293 of its 312 ward beds have been utilized as of May 31.

Lopez said that the local government opened eight additional temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (TTMFs) with a combined bed capacity of 1,168. The additional facilities brought to 24 the total TTMFs of the city government and the bed capacity at 2,542.

Of the total, he said 16 TTMFs with 1,374 beds have been fully occupied.

He said the private hospitals – Davao Doctors Hospital, Brokenshire Hospital, and Metro Davao Medical and Research Center – have started accommodating COVID-19 patients.

Lopez said other hospitals could not open COVID-19 beds as of yet due to lack of nurses and hospital staff.

He added that the DOH-Davao vowed it would provide medical staff to augment the workforce in private hospitals.

He added that private hospitals must allocate 30% of their total beds to COVID-19 cases. SPMC, meanwhile, provides 50%.

Lopez disclosed that the local government would procure two buses to hasten the pick-up and transport of patients who would turn out positive for COVID-19 from their homes to the designated isolation facilities.

At the rate new infections are growing, Lopez said health personnel are confronted with delays in picking up patients from their homes.

He said some patients could not be picked up within 24 hours from release of their swab result.

“I would like to ask for an apology. One reason [for the delay] is that we have so many cases. I have requested reinforcement from RAT (Rapid Action Team) for additional vehicles,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)