ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Local officials ruled out a lockdown as the city went under Alert Level 3 on Sunday, January 16, due to the threat of rising COVID-19 infections.
Zamboanga recorded its highest number of single-day COVID-19 cases so far since the start of the new year on Wednesday, January 12, at 88. It brought the number of new COVID-19 infections in the city to 319 during the first 12 days of 2022, and 22,906 since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Dr. Dulce Miravite, city health officer, noted an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases in the city.
But the city government has prepared for another surge in COVID-19 infections. This week, Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco and 1st District Representative Cesar Jimenez Jr. unveiled a new P134.56-million 320-bed isolation facility in Barangay Talisayan.
Officials, however, said a lockdown similar to what was resorted to during the early days of the pandemic was not being considered as an option in Zamboanga as the local government started implementing stricter measures.
The city government has imposed stricter rules for inbound travelers, requiring them to present vaccination cards and latest test results showing they are COVID-19-free.
The COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force included Zamboanga in the list of areas placed under Alert Level 3 from January 16 to January 31.
Authorities said Zamboanga’s “Sunday vaccine bubble” would continue to be in effect as an incentive to those who are fully vaccinated. This means those vaccinated won’t be subjected to too many restrictions on Sundays.
In an advisory, the Zamboanga City COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force said, “All establishments with full-vaccinated employees may re-open to the general public at such capacity allowed by the current Alert Level Status, catering to fully-vaccinated individuals only, who shall present their authentic vaccination cards before they are allowed entry into the establishment. All other persons are advised to stay indoors and avoid going out.”
Zamboanga has eased restrictions for vaccinated churchgoers on Sundays. The city has also exempted Disaster and Risk Reduction Management workers, security front liners, food delivery workers, and those seeking to be inoculated from outdoor movement restrictions.
Mayor Climaco appealed to residents, “Continua usa face mask, frequente lava mano y mantene distancia fisica y man vacuna si turnon ya de ustedes (Continue to use face masks, wash hands frequently, and maintain physical distance, and have yourselves vaccinated when it is your turn).”
General Santos situation
In General Santos City in the Soccsargen region where COVID-19 cases have also been increasing, officials appealed to residents to observe public health protocols as the city was placed under Alert Level 3 on Sunday until the end of January.
Department of Health (DOH) regional director Arestides Concepcion Tan and General Santos Mayor Ronnel Rivera said there was no data to point to the more transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 as the cause of the increase in infections in the city this month.
The DOH logged 290 new infections in General Santos in two weeks as of Saturday, January 15.
Officials also noted that in less than a week, newly documented single-day infections in the city climbed from one digit to 80 cases on Thursday, January 13. Then there were 72 more new cases the following day.
Dr. Fidel Peñamante, president of the local chapter of Philippine Medical Association (PMA), said General Santos logged a 4.94% average daily attack rate.
Local officials said face-to-face classes and contact sports would not be allowed in the city until January 31.
They also decided to close down amusement and entertainment establishments, and bars in the city during the period.
Residents, however, are allowed to move around outdoors for exercise and essential purposes. –Rappler.com
Frencie Carreon and Rommel Rebollido are Mindanao-based journalists and awardees of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship