By Fayette C. Riñen
Political determination, strict implementation of health protocols, and community involvement are the key factors that resulted to a very low incidence of COVID-19 cases in Dumaguete City, despite the first recorded imported case in the country coming from the city back in January.
Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo said the strong will to strictly implement the globally accepted health protocols for people to obey must be consistent “if we want to make our city and people safe” from the deadly SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
“Our only best weapon is prevention and we employ guerilla techniques in order to ensure that there will be no local transmission of the disease,” said Remollo during today’s Network Briefing Program on COVID-19 anchored by Sec. Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
Remollo referred to guerilla techniques as the strict compliance by residents of the three health protocols such as wearing of face mask and face shield especially when out of the house, and frequent handwashing with soap and water or alcohol disinfection.
Dumaguete City and the rest of the provinces of Central Visayas are under modified general community quarantine status, as most business establishments are now allowed to operate with more people going out to report to work.
Remollo said the city cannot afford a breakout as “we have limited tertiary hospitals and our hospitals are not fully equipped with respirators and intubators.”
“God forbid in case of a breakout, as this will be worse than Metro Manila,” said Remollo.
The mayor added the city does not also have a Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory to expand COVID testing, and sought the assistance of Andanar to follow up with the Department of Health so they could have their own testing lab.
Most COVID-19 cases in Negros Oriental come from other areas of the province, but they come here to Dumaguete, the province’s capital, to seek medical treatment, said Remollo.
Remollo further said the city government put in place a system before accepting any locally stranded individuals (LSIs), returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) or even authorized persons outside of residence (APOR) who come back to the province, with Dumaguete as the entry point.
“We require LSIs, returning OFWs or even APOR to undergo PCR swab test before they can enter the city. Then they need to be quarantined for 14 days, either in isolation centers or accredited hotel facilities, and we facilitate it for them,” said Remollo.
Remollo said they even send nurses and doctors to check the people in the quarantine facilities with a ratio of 1:1 whether anyone develops symptoms of fever, and admitted it is a tedious process as these medical frontliners are in full personal protective equipment gear.
But even beyond the PCR test, Remollo said there must be an acceptance from the respective local chief executive and the barangay to welcome the LSIs, returning OFWs and APOR back to their hometown.
The local chief executive said the order by the National Government for local government units to accept the LSIs and returning OFWs caused alarm in the community over a possible local transmission of the COVID-19 disease, as Remollo asked for understanding that they can only do so in batches because of limited quarantine facilities.
Remollo, however, largely credited the low incidence of COVID-19 cases in his city to the active involvement and cooperation of the community, particularly in compliance to the health protocols.
“We work together day and night just to keep the city safe. Because prevention is better than a pound of cure,” stressed Remollo.