Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas on Wednesday, August 25, nixed another enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for Western Visayas’ regional center despite rising cases of COVID-19, including the more infectious Delta variant.
Other local executives in the region, which reported 53 confirmed Delta cases on August 23, agreed with Treñas. They have opted to focus on adopting the best practices of Bacolod City and Negros Occidental, which have managed to contain the virus’ spread.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health in Western Visayas (DOH 6) issued a new order to plug containment loopholes in dealing with more infectious COVID-19 variants. The DOH said confirmed cases and their close contacts now have to take second RT-PCR tests and go through another round of quarantine.
Among the key moves eyed by mayors and governors are tweaking quarantine and isolation policies for COVID-19 positive residents and increasing contact-tracing efficiency.
Treñas, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., and Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin attended a meeting on August 23 to ask Bacolod City officials for a briefing on best practices that led to a steady decline of cases over the last month.
Bacolod City on August 5 announced 100% on-site isolation for all COVID-19 positive individuals. City administrator Em Ang, who also heads the Emergency Operations Center-Task Force (EOC-TF), said local officials implemented the policy during a June case surge.
“We were suspecting that we had new variants already,” Ang told Rappler. “We saw that infections were high among members of the same household and there was also clustering of cases in the same workplace.”
The city did not wait for confirmation results. “We decided to impose immediate extraction and isolation of all positive patients to limit transmission and contain further spread of the virus.”
Ang said even with the best of intentions, COVID-19 positive persons may not be able to isolate completely in households.
“Few households in the city have one room and bathroom per person,” she pointed out. Even infected individuals who live in bigger homes are still taken to facilities because close family and community ties can increase risk of exposure.
Bacolod and Iloilo City are still waiting for the results of scores of samples submitted to the Philippine Genome Center for variant tests.
Bacolod’s aggressive contact-tracing also played an important part in containment.
Ang said the city has 1,063 contact tracers, higher than the 787 minimum hires needed for the formula of one tracer for every 800 persons prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
There are three to four contact tracers for every positive patient, with two coming from the DILG, and one each from the police and the EOC.
Regional executives also cited Negros Occidental’s 24-hour emergency line that responds to 2,500 calls daily.
Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson on August 25 said the province’s One Hospital Command, which covers nine provincial hospitals, had also upgraded the patient referral system and coordination with emergency responders and hospital management.
“Because of this, Negrenses need not scramble for emergency response and hospital vacancies,” Lacson said during his State of the Province address.
The province has two molecular laboratories, aside from those in Bacolod, which is a chartered city.
The Teresita Jalandoni Provincial Hospital can run 1,500 tests a day, making it the top molecular laboratory on the island, Lacson said. It achieved this month a 100% passing rate in the 2021 External Quality Assessment on SARS-CoV-2 Detection by Real-Time PCR conducted by the DOH-Research Institute for Tropical Medicine.
The province, in April, opened its second molecular lab at the Valladolid District Hospital.
New surge feared
Iloilo City, with a population of 477,695, reported 115 new COVID-19 cases on August 24. Bacolod, with a 624,783 population, had 18.
Treñas said his city is bracing for “a surge in cases brought about by the Delta variant.”
The mayor has requested the national government to provide three modular hospitals with a total of 66 COVID beds. The city, which has the only hospitals with intensive care units on Panay island, needs to ease hospital utilization rates, the mayor said.
Guimaras, the smallest province in the region with a population of 187,936, reported 36 new cases on August 24. It was nearing Alert Level 4 status, meaning its level one health facilities were almost full of COVID-19 patients, Treñas said after the meeting of local executives.
Negros Occidental, the country’s fourth largest province with a 2.1 million population, only had 29 new cases, the same figure for Aklan, which has only 615,475 people. Aklan also reported 21 Delta cases on August 23.
Iloilo province, which has a 2.051-million population continued to top the COVID-19 case count in the region, with 225 new cases. It has 16 new Delta cases.
Iloilo province and Iloilo City have ordered new curbs on mobility to lower case incidence rates.
The province ordered lockdowns on barangays with clusters of cases, requiring even essential workers and those headed for their vaccination schedules to get quarantine passes.
Aside from tightening border controls on August 23, allowing in only essential workers, Treñas also placed nine barangays with Delta cases under surgical lockdown on August 24.
The IATF placed the city under ECQ from August 6 to 15 due to its high hospital utilization rate.
Treñas placed his city under “ECQ with hard lockdown,” halting all air and sea travel, and tightening border controls from August 4 to August 8 to give breathing space to a health care system with 100%-ICU occupancy and 80%-occupancy for COVID-19 wards. The city said 70% of the patients in metro hospitals came from other provinces. – Rappler.com