Zamboanga Sibugay

Zamboanga Sibugay relaxes restrictions as COVID-19 cases drop by 83%

Antonio Manaytay
Zamboanga Sibugay relaxes restrictions as COVID-19 cases drop by 83%

FRONTLINERS. Public health frontline workers at the Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital.

Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital Facebook page

Governor Wilter Palma relaxes health and travel restrictions, and stops imposing the 'no vaccination card, no entry' policy in all establishments in Zamboanga Sibugay

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – Zamboanga Sibugay is now seeing a dramatic drop in the number of its COVID-19 infections, prompting Governor Wilter Palma to order more relaxed public health measures in the province.

Health officials noted an 83% decrease in its active COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, February 20.

The province saw its single-day COVID-19 cases soaring to three-digit numbers after the December 2021 holidays. It logged 248 active cases on February 1 and then dropped to 41 on Sunday.

Encouraged by the improvement, Palma relaxed health and travel restrictions in Zamboanga Sibugay that were re-imposed due to the surge in COVID-19 infections. The province has reverted to the Alert Level 2 category.

The provincial government also stopped imposing the “no vaccination card, no entry” policy in all establishments in the province.

But Palma said everyone is required to observe minimum public health standards such as the wearing of face masks and distancing.

Dr. Said Sahi, the provincial government’s epidemiologist, attributed the downtrend to the vaccination rollout in the province.

But records from the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) showed that the COVID-19 vaccination rate in Zamboanga Sibugay was relatively low. It has so far inoculated some 47% of its target population of over 600,000. 

Hospital upgrade

Meanwhile, in Northern Mindanao, the Senate approved on third and final reading a bill to double the capacity of the region’s top COVID-19 referral hospital.

The bill would increase the bed capacity of the state-run Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) from 600 to 1,200. 

The bill was transmitted to Malacanang for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez, who authored a counterpart bill in the Lower House, said the measure would upgrade NMMC’s health care services and facilities “to (be) commensurate with the bed-capacity increase.” 

Rodriguez said it would also increase the hospital’s workers and the budget for personnel, maintenance, and other operating expenses.

Once signed into law, it would double the NMMC’s budget to at least P2 billion in 2023, he said.

“The NMMC caters to patients not only from Cagayan de Oro City but also region-wide. I am very thankful that the Senate approved my proposal. This will significantly help the NMMC to accommodate more patients, especially at this time of COVID-19 pandemic,” read a statement from Rodriguez’s office. – with reports from Herbie Gomez/

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

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