South Cotabato braces for COVID surge as variants spread across PH

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 August) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is bracing for another surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming months amid the continuing spread of its new variants in parts of the country.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said he will convene the medical sector and other concerned stakeholders on Monday to formulate a new surge plan and containment measures against the dreaded Delta variant and other mutant strains.

The South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City. Photo courtesy of Google Street View

He said the COVID-19 situation in the province, especially the confirmed cases and hospital capacity, remains manageable but noted that the situation could worsen by early to mid-September.

Such trend was already seen in the previous surge of infections in the area, which came one to two months after the noted increase in cases in Metro Manila and other key areas, he said.

“We need to prepare for the possible increase of cases, especially with the Delta variant. Although we still have no recorded cases, it’s possible that it already entered our area due to the open movement of people from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao,” Tamayo said in his radio program “Ang Gobernador kag ang Katawhan.”

The governor said they mainly need to review the capacity of the area’s COVID-19 referral hospitals and immediately address the possible gaps.

He said they are initially planning to further expand and maximize the existing treatment facility at the old pay wing of the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City.

The COVID-19 treatment center currently has a total of 49 patients, comprising 11 with confirmed results, 26 probable, and 12 suspect cases. Three of the patients are at the intensive care unit, which still has two vacant slots and one available mechanical ventilator.

The local government may later opt to utilize anew the facilities at the Soccsksargen General Hospital (SGH) in Surallah, which is currently undergoing management transition to the Department of Health.

The SGH, which was designated in 2018 as a regional hospital for Region 12, was utilized by the provincial government last year as a treatment facility for COVID-19 patients with moderate to severe symptoms.

Tamayo said the South Cotabato Medical Society earlier suggested the use of the new right wing building of the provincial capitol as a temporary treatment facility but is not an option at this time as they are still waiting for its formal turnover.

But he said they could later set up tents in available spaces at the Productivity and Technology Center compound, which is just across the provincial hospital.

Tamayo assured that the local government has been continually enhancing its COVID-19 response and containment strategies to prevent an uncontrolled surge of infections that could lead to the collapse of local health systems.

“We need everyone to remain vigilant and not lower their guards, especially in complying with the health protocols. Have yourselves vaccinated if it is already available,” he said.

The active COVID-19 cases in the province dropped to 653 on Sunday as it recorded 84 new infections and 116 recoveries.

The confirmed cases in the area since last year already reached a total of 9,861, with 300 related deaths and 8,908 recoveries. (MindaNews)

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