DAVAO CITY—National Task Force (NTF) Covid-19 chief implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez recommended on Wednesday the reversion of Davao City to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), amid the “very alarming situation” brought about by the surging coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases.
During an Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) meeting at Camp Quintin Merecido of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 on Wednesday, Galvez said the outbreak situation here required a stricter quarantine classification to stem the spread of the infection.
“I will recommend that Davao City should at least go to GCQ,” he said.
Galvez said the local government units, including the cities of Davao and Cebu, which are struggling in managing surging cases, should learn from the experiences of the cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) in dealing with the crisis.
He added the local government has more control over the business activities and conduct of social gatherings once it is placed under GCQ.
“NCR never went to MGCQ because it is afraid of another spike. The NCR, right now, has 2,700 active cases. It managed to bring it down to 2,700 cases because it does not want to be under MGCQ,” he said.
He said LGUs under MGCQ tend to see a spike in COVID-19 cases as restrictions are further relaxed.
“The problem that we’re seeing now under MGCQ, particularly in urban centers, cases spiked. What should the LGU do, for example, Bacolod and Iligan when they saw that there was a spike, they themselves declared it and they did not wait for the RIATF (Regional Inter-agency Task Force),” he said.
Galvez said that under the MGCQ, there will be many social gatherings since it will allow up to 50 percent total capacity.
“Lahat ng nag-MGCQ, nag-spike (In areas placed under MGCQ, COVID-19 cases spiked),” he said, adding that most of these are densely populated cities.
He urged the LGUs not to hesitate in imposing stricter quarantine regulations.
“That’s how the virus works. We cannot dictate it. Once we open up our economy, there is a tendency that it will spread. As much as possible, calibrate your restrictions,” he said.
Galvez dismissed calls for an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from medical frontliners in the city since these more restrictive quarantine classifications are not sustainable, seeing the need to balance the economy and welfare of the people.
The entire city was placed under ECQ from April 4 to May 15, GCQ from May 16 until June 30, and MGCQ last July 1 until the end of November.
He said putting the city under the strictest form of quarantine classification will dampen its economy, and will be costly on the part of the local government since it has to support the food requirements of its residents during the two-week lockdown period.
“I will not be recommending ECQ for the purpose of two weeks because that two-week period will not have an immediate effect. If any, you will see an effect by December, maybe,” he said.
Galvez recommended granular lockdowns in barangays that reported widespread transmission of the infection in place of ECQ or MECQ.
“Yun lang ang i-lockdown natin. Dapat dun sa area na yun, mag ECQ tayo or mag MECQ tayo dun, yun i-declare ( We should lockdown specific areas. We will declare ECQ or MECQ in those areas), he said.
Dr. Alethea De Guzman of the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau said most of the new cases reported in the last 14 days in the city came mostly from densely populated communities, particularly the coastal barangays.
In her presentation, Barangays Buhangin, 19-B, Talomo Poblacion, Agdao, and Bucana were identified as hot spot areas.
“New cases, in the past 14 days, just came from 53 percent of the barangays in Davao City, so 96 barangays (of the total 182). Actually, at least 80 percent of the new cases came only from 35 barangays, so 35 barangays are more manageable so we can identify where to start when it comes to our investigation and response,” she said.
As of November 18, Davao City reported a total of 5,412 cases, Davao de Oro – 398, Davao del Norte – 877, Davao del Sur – 580, Davao Occidental – 111, and Davao Oriental – 401.
The entire region has 2,325 total active cases, 5,168 recoveries, and 286 deaths.
Out of the 5,412 cases in Davao City, 1,828 are active, 3,347 recovered, and 237 died.
“I’d like to point out that if the national percentage of the active cases at the national level is only about 7 percent, for Davao Region, it’s high at 27 percent,” she said.
She said Davao Region’s epidemic curve is steeply going up in contrast to the national epidemic curve that is going down.
“We don’t see signs of it going down because it’s sharply rising. And much like NCR, influencing the national epidemic curve, it seems to be that Davao City is influencing the Davao Region epidemic curve,” she said.
No to home quarantine
Galvez said another possible factor for the spike was the option made by residents to go on home quarantine instead of going to the Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities (TTMF).
“Meaning, pagka-nagkaroon po tayo ng home quarantine, ang susunod po diyan is community transmission. Pagka-community transmission na, mahirapan na tayong ma-control (Meaning, if we have many home quarantine, next to that is community transmission. If that happens, it is already difficult to control),” he said.
He said the city is also weak in contact tracing because some of those who had direct contact with a COVID-19 positive were not immediately put on isolation.
Galvez said there were the same experiences in the National Capital Region, Laguna, and Cebu when home quarantine reached 55 percent, the numbers immediately spiked.
He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is proposing to make a massive isolation of those who are under home quarantine using a single facility, if the local government will allow them to intervene.
“Tatanggalin talaga natin yung mga home quarantine. Magkakakaroon tayo ng Oplan Kalinga dito (We should remove those people who are placed under home quarantine.We will enforce Oplan Kalinga here),” he said.
Galvez said that if Mayor Sara Z. Duterte will allow the IATF, they will form a special team where personnel deployed in Cebu and Bacolod will be transferred to Davao City to help transfer patients under home quarantine to an isolation facility.
“Kapag ma-cracked out natin ang naka-home quarantine at tiyak na-test natin ang mga first contacts, ma-isolate agad natin yan within four weeks, bababa ang kaso (If we remove all patients under home quarantine and test and isolate the first contacts within four weeks, the number of cases will decrease),” he said.
He said COVID-19 cases in Bacolod City, Cebu City, Batangas, Regions 3 and 4 were stabilized using this method.