The Bicol Interagency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (BIATF) said contingency measure are in place to address the surging cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) spawned by the influx of thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) returning home to various Bicol provinces.
Dr. Ernie Vera, Department of Health (DOH) Bicol regional director and assistant IATF chairperson, said that without this measure Covid-19 cases here could reach 1,200 by January next year mainly due to the government’s “Hatid Pobinsiya” a program aimed at sending home thousands of LSIs from Metro Manila and other regions in the country where there are many Covid-19 cases.
Vera said that among the measure that would stop or reduce the increasing trend of Covid-19 cases include the stricter guidelines on the entry of LSIs in various Bicol borders, intensify contact tracing at the local towns, cities down to the barangays, and setting up of additional quarantine and isolation facilities in those areas.
“The trending showed that in March we have recorded seven confirmed cases and only nearly 40 cases in June, and as of July 5, it recorded a 77 active cases, a 57 percent increase due to the LSI influx.” he said.
“Previously, we recorded one to three cases in every two days, this has critically rose to 10 cases a day , but yesterday (Aug. 5) we have recorded 39 cases the highest number so far since the onset last March. This was due to the arrival of LSIs, who according to health frontliners, some of them were tested positive for Covid,” Vera said.
He said “the increasing trend could worsen if these arriving LSIs have not properly undergone Covid-19 swab test and other health procedures before they are allowed to travel, rapid test administered by local government are unreliable as compared to the swab test managed by the DOH.”
DOH tracker showed that as of March 17 to August 5 a total of 551 confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded. Of these numbers, 286 were active cases, 251 recoveries, and 14 deaths recorded.
BIATF in close coordination with the provincial,city and town IATF regularly initiate the “Detect, Test, Isolate, Treat,” health strategy versus the spread of the virus.
The BIATF has dismissed reports that the increasing trend of Covid-19 cases has reached the local or community transmission category.
Vera said “so far there is no local transmission, citing the cases has not yet reached the given standard health parameters for it to be declared as such.”
The DOH can serve 455 test results a day while there are 464 total bed capacities of which 39 are ICU, 275 are isolation, 150 beds in Covid wards in public and private hospitals across Bicol. There are 27 mechanical ventilators machines available in 17 public and private hospitals .
The total Covid-19 bed capacity has posted a 30 percent utilization rate while only 4 percent of 27 mechanical ventilators are used for critical Covid-19 patients.
BIATF said that it needs 60 additional physicians to augment the doctors manning the Covid facilities. Vera however lamented that there are no takers yet, so in order to address the issue, the DOH has accepted medical and nurse interns from various educational institutions.