Silver bullet against an invisible enemy

By : Uriel Quilinguing Mindanao Today/10:00:40am 07/27/2021


(Note: This news article was published in the print edition of Mindanao Today on July 22, 2021)

Declaring the entire Cagayan de Oro under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status, the highest level of restrictions that the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emergency Infectious Diseases can possibly imposed on a locality, caught many city residents by surprise.

When the IATF placed this regional capital city under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) status for the month of June and extended it to July 15, those in the know of the two-week growth rate (TWGR) and average daily attack rate (ADAR) of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections knew why, notwithstanding the relatively high critical care utilization rates in hospitals. This, even if a general community quarantine (GCQ) may still be applicable to Cagayan de Oro, comparing key health indicators to other places under GCQ. This, of course, is water under the bridge.

The IATF on its 127th meeting on July 15, 2021 issued Resolution No. 127-E as basis for escalating the risk-level classifications of local governments, taking into considerations recommendations from technical advisory and working groups, including one that focuses on COVID-19 variants.

This resolution immediately placed Cagayan de Oro and three other places in the country under ECQ without mentioning that the basis of such was due to the detection of COVID-19 delta variant cases. In effect, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s announcement, aired hours earlier, the supposed extension of Cagayan de Oro’s MECQ status to July 31 had no bearing.

Aside from Cagayan de Oro, the three others under ECQ, as stipulated in IATF Resolution 127-E, are Gingoog, a component city of Misamis Oriental, Iloilo Province, and Iloilo City—all with at least a case of the more virulent strain of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), that of delta variant.

Those in the IATF who are also in the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) must have known that Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog are situated well within the coastal stretch of Misamis Oriental Province. But Resolution No. 127-E placed Misamis Oriental (also the province of Antique in the Visayas) under GCQ until July 31 and further enumerated the restrictions which must be complied with, but none for those under the ECQ status.

Local implementers of ECQ had to check on previous issuances of IATF, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Tourism, and Department of Transportation to be guided on which establishments are allowed to open and guidelines on the movement of people.

But for GCQ, IATF Resolution No. 127-E provided the specifics, such as percentage limits since restaurants may open for dine-in customers up to 50%, resorts for tourists up to 30%, and religious gatherings, also at 30% limit. Travels are unhampered, except for strict observance of minimum public health standards.

Views from the South aired this concern during a close-door meeting of CODE with the local chief executives of Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog on Monday, July 19, but National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez maintained that only Cagayan de Oro and Gingoog should be under ECQ, saying that many areas in Misamis Oriental are not affected by the highly infectious Covid-19 delta variant and are at low risk levels. This, even when the context the issue was raised included Misamis Oriental residents who need to travel and cross the borders daily for their work in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. In response, Galvez assured local officials leeway in the implementation of health, safety and travel restrictions.

But local chief executives in the province, cities and municipalities, including barangay officials, must put their acts together in addressing what could be most challenging yet in combatting the most virulent Covid-19 strain so far.

This time, waiting for another case of COVID-19 delta variant to be detected—after several weeks from submission of specimen—is unwise.

Let’s re-examine and recalibrate our existing prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration strategies whether these combined is the silver bullet that we need against an invisible enemy.

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