Officials have credited this city’s “best practices” on coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as it aims to strike a balance between containing the number of infections while providing an elbow room to prevent the local economy from going into a tailspin.
These practices, officials said, are consistently observed even from the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) on April 4 to May 15, the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from May 16 until June 30, to a more relaxed Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) on July 1 to July 15.
On top of the list is the local government’s emphasis on non-pharmaceutical interventions such as the wearing of face mask, safe physical distancing, proper handwashing, and staying at home.
Leading the charge is no less than Mayor Sara Z. Duterte, who constantly reminds Dabawenyos of the basic health protocols on almost a daily basis, in-between warnings of the real dangers of the contagion.
Complementing the mayor’s executive actions, the City Council passed the Mandatory Face Mask Ordinance, giving teeth to Mayor Sara’s two related directives on the compulsory wearing of face masks.
Penned by Councilor Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, the ordinance requires the wearing of face mask at all times in public places during the community quarantine or until the state of public health emergency is lifted.
More importantly, the measure provides penalties on violators, who will be fined PHP500 for the first offense, PHP2,000 for the second offense, and PHP5,000 fine or one-month imprisonment, or both, for the third offense.
The ordinance also prescribes the correct face mask including surgical mask, cloth mask, bandanas, washable mask, N95 mask, and other thick-surface masks.
Mayor Sara recently underscored the strict observance of health protocols even under the less restrictive MGCQ, which allows more people to go out, work, and for businesses to operate.
“Remember what the doctor said that if both of us would wear a face mask, the risk of transmission is very low as compared to when one of us does not wear any. So we need to wear our face mask wherever we go,” she said in one of her daily radio briefings recently.
When the city was placed under the more restrictive ECQ in early April, local officials noted that the infections were still on the rise.
This prompted Mayor Sara and the Davao City Covid-19 Task Force to adopt an area-specific system for lockdown, containing the movement of people in areas where the clustering of infections are recorded.
The targeted lockdown on streets, houses, and even housing compounds seeks to prevent the virus from spreading outside a particular area while allowing places that have no clustering of infections to continue their normal routine.
As of this week, the city has enforced more than 20 targeted lockdowns.
For instance, Mayor Sara ordered a 14-day “hard lockdown” in Barangay 23-C due to the surge of Covid-19 cases in the village.
In a report, the City Information Office (CIO) bared that the barangay of 18,000 people recorded 17 Covid-19 cases from June 28 to July 3. Prior to this, the barangay already recorded 88 Covid-19 cases.
The “hard lockdown” on Barangay 23-C will end on July 19. Until then, no resident is allowed to go out of the village, unless in cases of emergency and other extremely important reasons.
The local government, meanwhile, conducts food rationing among the barangay residents and provided other basic services so as to ease the lockdown’s impact on the villagers.
“We don’t want other barangays to be affected. We have 182 barangays. We don’t want just because of one barangay, we will go back to ECQ,” Mayor Sara pointed out.
Barangay 23-C Village Chief Alemudin “Wating” Usman, welcomed the local government’s decision to impose a hard lockdown on his village while providing his constituents with the necessary support.
“Thank you City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and other agencies and officials who provided help to our barangay,” Usman told the Philippine News Agency early this week.
Previously, the local government also imposed lockdowns on Barangay Sto. Niño, Tacunan, Daliao, Barangay Ilang, Barangay 21, Barangay 23, Barangay Leon Garcia, Barangay Bago Gallera, Catalunan Grande, Baliok, Talomo, Aliongto, Buhangin Proper, and Cabantian.
To sustain the grassroots initiatives to contain the virus, Mayor Sara has also directed barangay officials to intensify the monitoring on potential Covid-19 cases for health authorities to respond quickly.
Currently, the city has multiple accredited Covid-19 testing centers located at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), the Tomas Claudio Health Center, and Davao One World Diagnostic Center.
To further encourage residents to undergo testing in case they experience Covid-19 symptoms, Mayor Sara even offered to have the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing right in their homes.
Meanwhile, the city government also removed the rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) requirement as part of the health screening procedures for individuals arriving in the city.
Health authorities noted that in many instances, RDT recorded both false negatives and false positives, straining the city’s detection efforts.
Mayor Sara underscored the reliability of the city’s testing program, including the heightened community surveillance to quickly isolate probable and suspect cases, treat patients immediately, and reduce mortality.
Safe physical distancing
As the city transitioned recently to a less restrictive quarantine regime, Mayor Sara has put more emphasis on safe physical distancing.
She has warned penalties ranging from fines up to closure for establishments that ignore physical distancing guidelines while requiring businesses to provide alcohol and sanitizers.
As more people go out in malls and crowded places, the local government has also complemented the safe physical distancing protocols of the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board for public utility vehicles with aggressive enforcement.
Limiting the number of people outside their homes also remains key to prevent overcrowding even while the city is under MGCQ. This has been achieved by maintaining the food and medicine (FM) pass system that was first enforced during the ECQ period.
Under the FM pass system, residents are only allowed to go out of their homes when they need to buy food and medicine as well as for medical purposes. Likewise, no FM pass is honored during Sundays, except for emergencies.
Liquor ban, curfew
While some parts of the country under MGCQ have lifted the liquor ban, Davao City retained for 24 hours following its implementation on April 6 through Mayor Sara’s executive order.
The mayor noted that based on the history of some Covid-19 patients in Agdao district, some had engaged in group drinking before being infected with the virus.
Mayor Sara noted that alcohol has encouraged many individuals to come together in groups, effectively violating the guidelines on safe physical distancing.
To further discourage people from congregating at nighttime, the local government has also heightened the enforcement of the 5 a.m. to 9 p.m curfew.
Under a newly-approved ordinance, curfew violators are liable to pay a fine of PHP3,000 for the first offense and PHP5,000 or imprisonment of not more than a year for succeeding offenses.
“Provided, that if the offender is a minor, the laws and regulations of the Philippines concerning minors shall apply, but the parent or guardian of such minor shall pay the above fine,” the ordinance said.
Covid test, quarantine for inmates
Acknowledging the threat of Covid-19 on confined environments such as jails and rehabilitation centers, Mayor Sara signed an executive order in June requiring mandatory coronavirus testing for Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) and Children in Conflict with Law (CICL) before their admissions or release from jails or the rehab centers.
Under the directive, PDLs and CICLs should present a certification from the Department of Health that they are negative of Covid-19 before admission.
If suspected to have Covid-19, they will be required to undergo a 14-day quarantine while those tested positive will be admitted to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC).
Following doctors’ recommendation that the bodies of Covid-19 patients be cremated, the city government decided to shoulder the cost of cremation services to ease the burden on the bereaved families.
Mayor Sara noted that the families left behind by Covid-19 patients are already suffering from not being allowed to claim the remains of their loved ones as part of the health protocols.
She also considered the fact that Covid-19 patients – either suspect or confirmed cases – must be cremated within 12 hours after death, making it nearly impossible for families to raise money for cremation.
She added that the money allocated for cremation services forms part of the national government’s Bayanihan grant to the city, amounting to PHP462 million.
“We are covering the expenses to fast-track the cremation of cadavers. There are many cadavers for cremation because families could not come up with the money within 12 hours,” she explained.
The free cremation service, she said, demonstrates the city’s effort to make the lives of Dabawenyos less difficult as they face the Covid-19 crisis. (PNA)