By Benjie F. Andriano I Published: June 17, 2020
ORMOC CITY – Despite imposing one of the country’s strictest health and border control protocols, Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez seems to have failed in keeping his city free from the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Worst, the Department of Health in the region (DOH-8) has confirmed just today that the latest is a case of local transmission, as declared by Health Regional Director Minerva P. Molon.
The Eastern Visayas Regional COVID-19 Testing Center (EVRCTC) established yesterday that four of the five latest positive cases in the region were from Ormoc. A four-year-old (EV201) child locally stranded individual (LSI) from Bato also tested positive.
Based on the DOH-8 data, EV 202 is a local resident of Ormoc who had no known contact with a COVID-19 positive patient, while the EV 203, 204, and 205 were all LSIs.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), local transmission indicates that the source of infection or any pathogen — such as virus, microorganism, or bacteria — already thrives within the reporting (where the case is reported) location.
Patients’ Mental Health
With the latest developments, Gomez assured his constituents that all COVID-19 positive patients in Ormoc had been isolated and provided with the appropriate medical attention.
Gomez also informed the public that the city government officials are now finalizing their plan for psychosocial intervention they will provide coronavirus patients as they believe that mental health is an integral component of their fast recovery.
As of June 15, identified were 42 positive cases in Ormoc City alone who were housed in the Ligtas COVID-19 Center at Barangay Dolores and in IAL Lodge, a prime hotel in the city.
Barangays Locked Down
Meanwhile, Gomez announced that during the Ormoc local government meeting held yesterday, he already signed an executive order placing Purok 6 in Barangay Bagong Buhay, Purok 7 (Holy Wings), and Palmville in Barangay Tambulilid under a calibrated lockdown.
The mayor said some residents had breached the city’s health protocols. Those who came from out of town reportedly went to their houses directly without coordinating first with the LGU, as decreed in the prevention of further contamination or contraction.
The calibrated lockdown was part of the virus containment measures laid by the IATF to pave the way for safe and immediate contact tracing of the possible close contacts of the people suspected to be carriers of COVID-19.
This lockdown will last for at least 24 hours or may extend longer depending on how fast the contact tracing team accomplished their task, said Gomez.
Stringent Border Control
Due to the sudden surge of the COVID-19 cases in Ormoc, Gomez could not conceal disappointment.
He is drafting a letter to be sent to the IATF so that Ormoc would be reverted to general community quarantine (GCQ) status instead of merely modified GCQ.
Gomez expressed belief that more stringent border control measures should be imposed.
In retrospect, Gomez was among the few local chief executives in the country who made the rounds on social media when, early on, he implemented commendable border control measures that kept his city COVID-free for almost three months.
This went viral and caught the attention of mainstream media.
Appeal for Cooperation
In Tacloban City, meanwhile, Mayor Alfred Romualdez said there was no point in confirming whether a local transmission already exists in his city, noting “it is better to leave the question unanswered”.
According to Romualdez, there is no need for him to confirm the issue of local transmission because it cannot help solve the problem.
He stressed that if he made a pro or con statement, it would propagate a wrong notion that may even lead the people to become complacent again.
In a press briefing, Romualdez appealed for the cooperation of every Taclobanon to defeat the COVID-19.
The government could only do so much, he said, and it’s the people who can effectively guard themselves.
Romualdez said that the people must always wear face masks, observe social distancing, and wash hands frequently if they want Tacloban City to win against the pandemic.
The mayor made it clear, however, that he is not barring the entry of the returning residents.
In Other Towns, Too
The DOH-8 earlier confirmed that indeed a local transmission of the infection occurred in Tacloban City, Lapaz, Hilongos, and, recently, in Ormoc.
But confusion stormed the city after Dr. Gloria Fabrigas, Tacloban, City Health Office OIC, refuted the claim of the DOH-8. She said the case of one COVID-19 positive health worker from Tacloban doesn’t fit the local transmission (of infection) parameters.
However, Tacloban City Health Office already published an erratum yesterday, citing that since the said health worker was stationed at EVRMC-Magsaysay, the patient most likely got infected through local transmission.