The number of COVID-19 cases in Zamboanga Sibugay has dropped – and even recorded none on Monday, October 25 – but the picture is not as rosy overall in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
While the province has been seeing a downtrend in COVID-19 cases, the region remains on the watch list of the Department of Health (DOH).
As of October 24, Zamboanga Peninsula was third in the list of COVID-19-affected regions categorized by the DOH as high-risk.
The region’s intensive care unit utilization rate climbed from 64.8% on October 18 to 71.2%. It is the second highest nationwide, next to Cagayan Valley that registered 86.9%.
But Zamboanga Sibugay province, despite easing its border controls for almost a month now, counted no newly documented COVID-19 case on Monday, the first since January.
The province has seen the number of its COVID-19 cases declining in the last two weeks, averaging 13 newly documented infections daily.
Dr. Arthur Luspo, former chief of the Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Hospital and now a provincial health officer, said the latest data showed that “indeed, there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.”
Luspo said he also noted that more people were lining up to get inoculated against COVID-19.
On Monday, the health department sent Zamboanga Sibugay some 44,172 doses of Pfizer vaccines and 10,600 doses of Moderna to help local officials and frontline health workers in ramping up the vaccination rollout in the province.
The province has stepped up the vaccination campaign as it started easing up its border controls – it removed its antigen test rule for incoming travelers on October 1.
Governor Wilter Palma said he relaxed the rules and opened up the province to “keep the economy alive.”
Until October, the province required travelers to show results of their antigen tests, a departure from what other areas in the region – Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur, and Zamboanga del Norte – require people entering from other places.
Palma explained that the province could no longer allow its economy to suffer as a result of stricter quarantine measures.
Dr. Eric Cabayacruz, municipal health officer of Kabasalan town, said it was premature to rejoice over the downtrend in Zamboanga Sibugay.
“Definitely, that’s good news, but honestly, it’s not yet time to rejoice. It remains to be seen if the cases will not increase in the days to come,” Cabayacruz said. – Rappler.com
Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awadee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.