The National Task Force Against COVID-19 has ordered a two-week suspension of the entry of Filipinos returning from Sabah via Zamboanga City, to slow down COVID-19 infections in the city.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the task force, declared the suspension on Monday, May 24, based on the appeal of Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle “Beng” Climaco-Salazar, after the city’s active COVID-19 cases soared to 2,540 over the weekend.
Sheila Covarrubias, city information officer, said Climaco told Lorenzana that city hall could no longer manage the increasing number of COVID-19 patients.
“Life is very fragile, and COVID [is] very potent. We need to protect everyone, including our frontliners,” read part of a text message sent by Climaco to Lorenzana.
Covarrubias said Lorenzana told the mayor the two-week suspension would only be the task force’s initial response to Zamboanga’s public health crisis.
Active COVID-19 cases in Zamboanga increased to 2,540 as of Sunday, May 23. City hall documented 192 new infections that day in the city that has so far seen 375 deaths due to COVID-19 since 2020.
Dr. Dulce Miravite, head of the City Health Office, said they have recorded 9,511 COVID-19 cases in Zamboanga since 2020. The city’s COVID-19 recovery rate, however, was over 50% or 6,596 as of Sunday, May 23.
Zamboanga City is an entry point for Filipinos returning from Sabah.
Returning Filipinos are screened and profiled by frontline public health workers in Zamboanga at the local airport and seaport before they are fetched by their respective local governments.
Zamboanga, the worst-hit area in western Mindanao in terms of number of COVID-19 cases, has been under a modified enhanced community quarantine since May 8. Unless extended, it will remain under MECQ until Monday, May 31.
NTF deputy chief implementer Vivencio Dizon was in the city on Friday, and assured that the task force would help city hall as it scales up its mitigation efforts to decongest hospitals and isolation facilities.
Dizon’s group brought thousands of COVID-19 testing kits, personal protective equipment, and high-flow cannulas and ventilators for the Zamboanga City Medical Center.
“What Zamboanga is experiencing is exactly the same situation in Metro Manila, its nearby provinces, including Baguio. While it is overwhelming at napakahirap, it can be done,” Dizon said. – Rappler.com