ILOILO CITY – Mayor Jerry Treñas ordered a lockdown on Iloilo City on Friday, March 20 through Executive Order (EO) 55-2020.
The mayor referred to the enhanced community quarantine as a “lockdown.”
“These are extraordinary times; we are at war with something we cannot see. We have to meet this challenge with extraordinary measures as well,” Treñas told members of the media during a press conference on Thursday morning ahead of the signing of the EO.
The city executive’s pivotal decision is directly caused by the sudden death of a 57-year-old person under investigation (PUI) at an Iloilo City hospital earlier this week, confined after exhibiting influenza-like syptoms.
The patient died without having a confirmed test result for COVID-19, as the delivery of specimens to testing centers in Manila have largely been delayed by air traffic gridlock due to the National Capital Region’s own lockdown. (READ: Man waiting for coronavirus test results dies in Iloilo City)
The Western Visayas’ Department of Health said there have been no confirmed case in Iloilo City.
While the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on coronavirus recommended a community quarantine only if two or more confirmed cases are present in a city or barangay, Treñas said he is using the quarantine as a preventive measure.
“While DOH will claim there are still no cases in Western Visayas, of course there will be no confirmed cases in our region yet because we don’t have the proper testing kits,” Treñas spoke candidly in Hiligaynon during the press conference on Thursday.
According to DOH-6, as of March 19, they say there are 18 PUIs in Iloilo City and 30 PUIs in the province.
Treñas is pushing for local testing in Iloilo City.
Currently, only the Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Cebu City is accredited to run tests for COVID-19 in the Visayas region.
“We are moving heaven and earth to establish our own testing centers here in Iloilo for the welfare of our citizens,” the city executive said during Thursday’s presscon. “We are eyeing Western Visayas Medical Center in Mandurriao district, with plans also to utilize the laboratories of the University of the Philippines Visayas and the University of San Agustin in Iloilo in the near future.”
The city received about 100 testing kits, already, but they are still working to get the kits approved and training the medical technologists to handle running the tests.
According to the DOH’s triage system, those with underlying health conditions, and those whose ailments have progressed to severe or critical symptoms – will have to be prioritized first for testing.
Treñas said in a Facebook post that DOH Secretary Fransicso III said an accredited medical technologist from Metro Manila would be coming to help start local testing.
Meanwhile, Treñas identified Iloilo Central School and Mabini Elementary School as quarantine areas.
“This is a fast-evolving public health concern, so we require fast and decisive solutions,” Treñas explained. “[The city hall] is taking this day to day, because our challenges change day by day. We are hoping for all the Ilonggo’s cooperation and understanding as we continuously evolve and change how we handle the containment of COVID-19.”
The quarantine includes provisions that mandate the closure of all major non-essential business establishments and spaces like malls and public parks, as well as strengthen the social distancing measures being adopted by the city.
Necessary establishments like supermarkets, restaurants, banks, pharmacies, hardware stores, gasoline stations, and other essential service providers, however, will remain open. Treñas said that in this time of crisis, the priority is to ensure that Ilonggos’ access to their necessities is not cut off entirely.
Treñas previously met with market and grocery store owners to ensure that food supplies will remain sufficient.
A liquor ban is in effect until April 14. A curfew is in place from 8 pm to 5 am.
Only essential travel for medical or humanitarian reasons, will be allowed during these hours.
“We have to implant in our citizen’s minds that they shouldn’t leave their homes willy-nilly, this is for their own safety,” Treñas said in Hiligaynon.
On Friday, the mayor also suspended jeepney operations after observing most of the riding public would not follow social distancing, or keep at least one meter apart, to prevent potential contact with the virus.
Iloilo City Hall is coordinating with the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Public Safety and Transportation Management Office (PSTMO) to implement the enhanced community quarantine.
On Thursday, Treñas presided over a session of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to ask for a P98-million supplemental budget to spend on combating COVID-19.
The funds will be utilized for laboratory materials and testing kits, food and medicine supplies, as well as livelihood support for underprivileged Ilonggos.
“This is for the good of our city and the welfare of its people. Let us cooperate and be one as we fight COVID-19. I know together we can win against this virus. Keep safe my beloved Ilonggos,” Treñas concluded in a statement. – Rappler.com