Bacolod City on lockdown; cases up due to returnees
BACOLOD CITY—This city of more than 600,000 people went on a four-day lockdown on Friday, a month after the government rejected the appeal of physicians from Negros Occidental to impose a strict quarantine to stem the number of infections in the city and province.
The lockdown was implemented as the province emerged as one of the top five areas with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country and the rise in infections was mainly due to the return of stranded individuals to their communities.
“When we checked the data, we verified that it was really those who came back to their areas which caused the increase in the number of cases. We are continuously studying the situation in Negros Occidental,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.
Negros Occidental has been one of the five provinces with the most number of new cases since Tuesday and the total reached a total of 681 new infections on Thursday, or 48 percent of Western Visayas’ 1,427 new cases this week.
On Friday, Metro Manila still accounted for most of new cases at 2,097, followed by Laguna (178), Cavite (138), Batangas (132) and Cebu (125).
Nationwide, the DOH recorded recorded an additional 3,999 cases on Friday, pushing the national tally to 209,544.
There are now a total 71,745 active cases, of which 91.2 percent are mild, 6.8 percent are asymptomatic, 0.8 percent are severe and 1.2 percent are critical.
A total of 134,474 patients have already recovered from COVID-19 with the recovery of 510 more patients. The death toll, however, climbed to 3,325 as 91 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Med community’s appeal
The increase in the number of cases in Negros Occidental comes a month after Bacolod’s medical community sought a two-week lockdown of the province’s capital city to help slow down the spread of the infection.
Last month, In a letter to President Duterte, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA)-Canlaon Medical Society and PMA-Negros Occidental Medical Society appealed urged President Duterte to impose a strict quarantine because Bacolod was “not equipped [yet] for a full-blast COVID-19 war.”
“We only have a few hospitals with limited capacity and equipment. We are just a few steps from being the next epicenter, and we fervently hope that you can help us prevent that from happening,” the groups said in their letter.
Last Tuesday, Mayor Evelio Leonardia sent another “emergency and urgent appeal” to President Duterte seeking a team of 150 nurses, 20 doctors, and 30 medical technologists as an “emergency stop-gap measure” before the city healthcare system bogs down.
The mayor said the recent spike in local transmissions in Bacolod has filled up the 149 COVID-19 beds in the seven hospitals of the city.
Leonardia, in an executive order, ordered the establishment of border checkpoints to control the flow of people into the city.
Based on DOH’s data as of Thursday, Negros Occidental’s bed occupancy rate is currently at 57 percent.
Bacolod, which accounts for 160 of the province’s total 286 beds, however, has an occupancy rate of 79.4 percent as only five intensive care beds, 16 isolation beds and 12 ward beds remain available in the city.
Bacolod was finally placed on lockdown starting Friday until Monday while swab tests are done on at least 5,000 city residents. Another 5,000 from other parts of the province will be tested on Sunday.
Meanwhile, non-residents of Bacolod City, except for essential workers, will be prohibited from entering or leaving the city.
Vergeire, however, defended the government’s decision not to put Bacolod on lockdown last month.
“Community quarantine is not the only intervention for COVID-19… Our efforts should be integrated and comprehensive. Even the experts are saying we can’t stay in lockdown forever because there are other aspects of our lives that are being affected already because of these lockdowns and community quarantine,” she said.
Vergeire insisted that although the lockdown wasn’t granted, the national government did set up a command system for hospitals in Bacolod and helped establish more temporary treatment and monitoring facilities to ensure hospitals would not be overwhelmed by cases.
President Duterte sent Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to Bacolod and the presidential troubleshooter said they will implement the same formula they used in Cebu City, which experienced a surge in coronavirus cases in June.
“We are here to help Bacolod, help the people, because (the) mayor sent a letter to the President asking for assistance, manpower, and other equipment, including how to stop the rising cases in Bacolod,” he said.
“The average number of cases here in Bacolod is 30 (a day), while during that time in Cebu (City) it was 350 cases per day, but now it is down to 10 to 15. Here 30, we can easily bring that down with the cooperation of the people,” he said.
More docs coming
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino promised to send more doctors, nurses, and soldiers to Bacolod to help overwhelmed front-line personnel.
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, for his part, said there will be no total lockdown while the testing is implemented in the cities of Silay, Talisay and Bago and in Murcia town on Sunday and Monday and hard quarantines would have to be implemented at the discretion of local governments.
Talisay City Mayor Neil Lizares urged the public to stay indoors to help curb the spread of the disease.
“During these difficult times, it is only by strictly following our health protocols and laws that we can put an end to this pandemic. Let us all do our part so that the sacrifices of our brave frontliners will not be in vain,” he said.
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