Growing COVID-19 threat prompts town hall closure, suspension of learning module distribution in gold rush area
KORONADAL CITY—The growing COVID-19 threat in the gold-rich town of T’boli in South Cotabato province forced the shutdown of its municipal hall and halted the distribution of learning materials to public schools.
T’boli Mayor Dibu Tuan ordered municipal employees to work from home and public school teachers to focus on the reproduction of learning modules, instead of their distribution, beginning on Monday (Oct. 12) to help stop the spread of SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19 and which is transmitted mainly by humans.
As of Monday evening, T’boli has 21 COVID-19 cases with 12 recoveries.
Seven cases were found at the village of Poblacion, where the town hall is located. One case each were found at the villages of Edwards and Kematu, site of gold-mining operations that included a 21-hectare small-scale mining area.
Tuan said the temporary closure of the town hall would allow health authorities to decontaminate all offices and give “due course to ongoing tracking activities.”
At least seven new cases reported around the municipal compound on Sunday (Oct. 11) confirmed local transmission had occurred, since most of the patients had no history of travel to “high risk areas.”
Tuan said the new cases involved residents of the two villages of Poblacion and Edwards, which have been placed on a lockdown.
“Our health authorities are working hard to prevent further transmission in the villages,” Tuan said in a radio interview.
He appealed to his people to stay home as the local government vowed to provide them with food during the lockdown.
He said employees, who are working from home, would be required to submit accomplishment reports upon their return to their offices.
Exempted from the work from home setup are employees rendering health services and are involved in communication, peace and order and disaster management.
Besides the rising threat posed by COVID-19, heavy rains in the past few days had damaged roads in the area, which was also one reason for the mayor’s order to suspend distribution of learning modules to communities for five days.
The order, the mayor said, was for the safety of teachers and students.
Tuan said the local government had been working on repairing the roads while at the same time allowing the contact tracing by local health authorities.
“With this ample time, the teachers may instead spend the week for the reproduction or printing of their education materials,” he said.
T’boli, particularly the village of Kematu, has been known as a gold rush site since the early 1980s, attracting small-scale miners from the Davao region and elsewhere in Mindanao who are in search for better lives.
In 2019, the town banned the use of mercury for gold ore processing. Jewelry-making has been T’boli’s “one-town, one product” industry.
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