Zamboanga Peninsula sees downtrend in COVID-19 cases

The Zamboanga Peninsula has seen its single-day newly documented COVID-19 cases dropping as local governments and public health workers ramped up vaccination rollouts throughout the region.

Zamboanga Peninsula, one of the regions with the least number of COVID-19 cases in 2020 and early this year, suddenly ended up in the government's watch list of areas with high-risk critical care utilization rates because of surges in infections in late September and early October.

But the region has been seeing improvements lately.

In Zamboanga Sibugay province, new COVID-19 cases have averaged only seven daily in the last two weeks, and it registered no new cases on October 25 and October 31.

Dr. Said Sahi, acting chief of Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital, attributed the drop in the number of COVID-19 cases to the stepped up vaccination campaign following surges in infections until late October when the number of cases started showing a downtrend.

The province has inoculated barely one-third of its population though.

Records from the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), showed that the province has vaccinated 81,611 or 27.42% of the 297,680 target population as of October 28.

Regionwide, the total number of new COVID-19 cases daily also dropped from over 100 cases two weeks ago to only two-digit numbers as of November 3.

Zamboanga City, the COVID-19 hotspot of Zamboanga Peninsula, logged 63 new cases on November 3 from 150 on October 26.

As a result, Zamboanga Mayor Isabelle Climaco expected a downgrade in the quarantine classification of the city from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) to the less strict General Community Quarantine (GCQ) on November 16.

Climaco ordered city health officer Dulce Miravite to review the current COVID-19 situation to determine if the city government can now relax its restrictions.

The provinces Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur have also seen the number of their new COVID-19 cases dropping.

But the downtrend should not mislead local officials and the public into relaxing minimum health protocols, health officials cautioned.

While there were days when there were no new cases recorded in some areas, Dr. Eric Cabayacruz, president of the Association of Municipal Health Officers in Zamboanga Sibugay, said there were still new infections documented in between those days.

“Even if there are no new cases, there are still active cases, and probably, deaths as well. We are only going to be in a good situation when there are no more active cases, when all patients have recovered, and when there are no more newly reported cases,” Cabayacruz said.

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship