Negros Occidental sets 4-day 'timeout weekend' with hard lockdown, mass testing

The provincial government of Negros Occidental plans to implement a “timeout weekend” from August 28 to 31 to conduct mass testing of 10,000 symptomatic patients.

In a joint press conference of Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia on Saturday, August 22, Capitol consultant and former Negros Occidental representative Alfredo Benitez said that during the timeout weekend, “there will be no movement at all. There will be a lockdown for 4 days, while we test everybody."

During this time, the provincial government is eyeing to test 10,000 individuals in 4 days, he said, adding that the 5 COVID-19 laboratories in the province would be able to produce 2,500 test results per day.

He said that the release of the test results should not take longer. “If it will last a week, a suspected patient could have interacted with more people which will cause a problem,” Benitez added.

The testing would be in phases, with Bacolod City and its neighboring localities prioritized in the initial phase, Benitez said. For other localities, they have to protect their borders, he added.

Benitez said the province needed to strengthen its contact tracing efforts, especially those with COVID-18-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, coughing, and loss of taste and smell. “Once we do an efficient contact tracing, we will test them,” he said.

Benitez said it was important that the people and the local government units would cooperate in this effort because of the rising cases of COVID-19 in Bacolod and the province.

Bacolod is not under the jurisdiction of the provincial government being a highly-urbanized city.

“At the rate it is going, we don’t want to be the next Cebu. We don’t want that to happen. We are appealing to LGUs including Bacolod,” Benitez said.

He added, "with this, we feel we can catch up with virus and isolate them before they infect others."

As of August 21, Negros Occidental now has 896 confirmed cases and 7 deaths, while Bacolod City has 651 cases and 17 deaths.

Both Lacson and Leonardia would issue executive orders regarding the implementation of this new protocol.

A Special Task Force would facilitate the mass testing of 10,000 symptomatic patients and their close contacts in the cities of Bacolod, Silay, Talisay, Bago, and the municipality of Murcia from August 28 to 31. – Rappler.com