50 Sagada frontliners on quarantine, 2 Covid positive; test lab urged

>> Thursday, August 13, 2020


By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE – Fifty frontliners are currently under quarantine at guest houses here and swabbed with specimens taken to Baguio General Hospital following earlier test of a 29 year old male frontliner found Covid positive.
Of the 50 who were swabbed August 11, another 39 year old female frontliner from Sagada was found out to be Covid positive. Health authorities say contact tracing is being undertaken.  
This as a petition for a molecular testing lab is floated online along with a separate resolution from the Office of the  Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada asking for the provision of a testing center for Covid-19. 
Covid patients are increasing here in this once Covid-free Mountain Province with Covid positive cases having climbed to 10 since the first confirmed case was known early June in Besao, Mountain Province.
The first infection came from a uniformed personnel from the Philippine National Police stationed at Camp Molintas, Buguias Benguet who went to Besao for a mission order.
The second third and fourth cases from the towns of Bontoc, Paracelis and Natonin respectively all came from Manila and the rest are frontliners of this Province.
Another Covid positive is a farmer from Paracelis.
The first Covid positive from Sagada is a uniformed personnel stationed at Pegeo checkpoint the only road entrance to Sagada during this Covid pandemic.
The positively confirmed patient is with the Bureau of Fire and deployed at the decontamination area for vehicles at Pegeo. He was tested Covid positive in August 9  following a requirement among some frontliners to undergo testing on August  6.   
              All the nine are asymptomatic except for the recent case from Paracelis who exhibited coughs and fever.
Meaning, anyone of the 150,000 resident-populace of the Province maybe asymptomatic and Covid virus carriers.
Meantime, an online petition urge officials of Mountain Province of both the Provincial and the 10 Municipal local government units to immediately secure a molecular testing lab in response to the threat of Covid-19.
Said petition forwarded ”it’s now the fourth month of the Covid-19 pandemic and Mountain Province has not yet  installed a molecular testing lab of its own either in the capital town or in any of the ten municipalities.
Mountain Province brings its specimens to Baguio General Hospital and wait three to four days for the result. 
In phone interview, Provincial Health Officer Nenita  Lizardo lamented on the cost of a testing machine separate from the cost of the building and trainings needed for personnel who shall operate on the machine and other requirements from the Department of Health.
Lizardo said Luis Hora Regional Memorial Hospital based in Bauko municipality has already requested for a molecular lab test saying that the request has not yet been approved. 
Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit is in favor of a molecular test lab. 
Meantime, the Sangguniang Bayan of Sagada with the endorsement of Mayor James Pooten Jr came up with a resolution directed to the Department of Tourism (DOT) requesting for the provision of a testing center for Covid 19,  including personal protective equipment (PPE) in response to a tourism- ready municipality should it be.   
               Sagada Municipal Health Officer Geovy Rose Wangdali-Aborque said it would be good to have one but wished Luis Hora Regional Memorial Hospital has a molecular test lab to cater to Covid-affected people from Mountain Province.
Municipal Medical Technologist Geraldine Aguilan-Alangui seconded the opinion of Aborque further stating that rural health units focus on prevention of diseases.
Alangui added that hospitals like Bontoc General Hospital or Sagada-based St Theodore’s Hospital have facilities for the installation of a test lab specially for infectious diseases like Corona virus.  
Said online petition forwarded “a testing lab lets one know if one has the virus or not. And if one has it, to undergo the necessary treatment, be quarantined and isolated and protect his/her health while protecting the health of his/her own family members and the immediate community he/she belongs to.”
A reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is best for Covid testing as this is more accurate than rapid testing, Alangui added.  
A molecular testing lab is not only necessary to address Covid-19 but may also serve as an additional ready facility for use by the Province’s health centers on infectious diseases.
There are already 101 testing labs spread out in the country with two in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) one at the Baguio General Hospital (BGH) and another privately owned based in Baguio. 
LGUs received their Bayanihan Grants equal to one month of their internal revenue allotment (IRA) for 2020 to address the threat of Covid-19.
As provided in Local Budget Circular No. 126, dated 13 April 2020 and in pursuance to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or RA 11469, said Bayanihan Grant shall be exclusively used for procurement of personal protective equipment, reagents, and kits for COVID-19 testing, medicines and vitamins, hospital equipment and supplies; disinfectants, sprayers, and other disinfecting supplies and misting equipment.
This among other items as food, transportation, and accommodation expenses of health workers; and expenses for the construction, repair or lease of additional  space or building to accommodate COVID-19 patients and persons under monitoring; expenses for training of health personnel, other necessary COVID-19-related accounts payable (P/A/Ps) and expenses and operation and maintenance of duly established provincial and municipal checkpoints such as provision of foods, medicines/vitamins, personal protective equipment, and disinfecting supplies.
Especially for municipalities, expense for the operation of stand-alone/mobile testing laboratory is provided for in the law.
The Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) also forwarded that the 20% development fund of LGUS may be used to undertake critical, urgent, and appropriate measures to curtail and eliminate the threat of COVID-19 in their areas by virtue of Joint Memorandum Circular No. 1 series of 2020. 
               Covid-19 positive cases in the country reached  ­­­­143,749 Covid positive cases, 72,348  active patients, 68,997 recovered and 2,404 dead as of August 12 and the numbers are still rising. In the Cordillera region are 432 Covid infected, 142 active cases, 283 recovered and 7 dead as of August 12 DOH records reveal. 
The Philippines  is the second highest in Southeast Asia with poor health systems with only two nurses per 10,000 people and 10 hospital beds per 10,000 people the lowest in the region according to a United Nations report. This despite billions that the government has already loaned to address the threat of Covid-19.


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Living with Covid-19

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2020


EDITORIAL

News organizations, in this time of Covid-19) pandemic, play a crucial role in informing the public on developments and updates about the disease and the pandemic.
Part of this role is to remind everyone that we are still living in the pandemic despite the easing of restrictions. The figures reported by the Department of Health on July 5 is a wake-up call for Filipinos.
The health agency reported 2,434 new Covid-19 cases in the country, bringing the total cases in the country to 44,254. Active cases in the country are now at 31,015, recoveries a
t 11,942, and deaths at 1,297.
Based on pooled data of the Asean Post, the Philippines has the third most number of total cases in Southeast Asia, just behind Indonesia (63,749) and Singapore (44,800). On July 5, the Philippines had the most number of new cases in a single day, compared to Indonesia (1,607) and Singapore (136). Malaysia and Thailand reported only five new cases each while Myanmar reported only seven new cases. Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos reported zero Covid-19 cases.
In terms of active cases, the Philippines comes second after Indonesia (31,473). Singapore only has 4,657 active cases.
Philippines also had the lowest recovery rate in Southeast Asia at only 27 percent. The highest is Laos with a 100 percent recovery rate, followed by Brunei Darussalam (98%), Malaysia (97%), Thailand (96%), Vietnam (95%), Cambodia (93%), Singapore (89%), Myanmar (76%), and Indonesia (45%).
While the Philippine government and the local government units have been doing their part to enable the country to combat Covid-19, netizens point out it is clear that more has to be done to improve the country's Covid-19 status.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque's pronouncement that the country has beaten University of the Philippine's Covid-19 predictions was derided.
The Philippines has not beaten anything. The number of cases in the past days has been rapidly increasing. Based on the current trend, it will be only a matter of time the Philippines will exceed Singapore in terms of the total number of Covid-19 cases and exceed Indonesia in the number of active cases.
Netizens point out efforts to combat Covid-19 not merely lies on the medical sector or the regulations and policies the government puts in place. Fighting Covid-19 also rests upon the public.
The Department of Health and the World Health Organization urged the public to avoid the three C's -- Crowded places, close-contact settings, and confined and enclosed places -- because of the risk of catching the disease. It said there is a higher risk of catching the disease if all three criteria are met.
The public was also urged to avoid crowded places. If you find yourself in one, spend the shortest amount of time there. The public had been advised to observe physical distancing, washing of hands with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wearing of face mask. If ever you are not feeling well, stay at home unless it is a medical emergency where you have to go to the hospital.
This Covid pandemic can be beaten in the near future, according to experts, but it has to start from individuals.

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‘Shoot-to-kill’ threats


BEHIND THE SCENES
Alfred P.Dizon

This country has a lot of “sayads (misfits),” said a Facebook post. This includes those enforcing the law and those who are being disciplined.
Every now and then, we hear of law enforcers accused of being abusive even as people are also tagged “pasaway” in this time of Covid-19 pandemic. 
Lately, a harsh Facebook post that a Quezon City official insisted news site Rappler quoted "maliciously" as him threatening people with a "shoot-to-kill" policy was not an isolated one.
Quezon City Task Force Disiplina head Rannie Ludovica, in a Facebook post published on August 2, wrote in Filipino: "How can we expect Covid not to increase, look at these irresponsible residents. Dapat sa inyo p.....t yin (You should be killed)."
The following day, he posted: "Starting tomorrow, shoot-to-kill is what will happen to all violators of the MECQ."
The former Quezon City councilor has also posted photos of him "monitoring" protest actions at the University of the Philippines campus. 
In his apology, Ludovica said Rappler "maliciously based his personal Facebook post to claim that the city government gave a formal order."
"My personal Facebook post came out of my dismay that we were going from GCQ to MECQ," he wrote. 
The Rappler report did not actually say the city had such a policy.
Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte condemned the posts at a Palace press briefing, calling Ludovica's comments "wrong, inappropriate and irresponsible."
She said, however, that: "While it's wrong and irresponsible, Ludovica apologized. This isn't a city policy, and he promised it wouldn't happen again. I understand where he's coming from as a fellow enforcer."
The Dept. of Interior and Local Government in May urged the public to report police, barangay or LGU officials who may be abusive when enforcing quarantine protocols. The department has also already sounded off on the posts, saying "shoot to kill" is illegal. 
"Some local governments have fines, some of them have imprisonment. You have to look at the ordinance itself. If the penalties imposed are within the bounds of law, then you have to follow that," DILG spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said earlier.
Quezon City does not have a shoot-to-kill policy.
The Quezon City TFD also figured in another controversy earlier in the quarantine when four of its village watchmen and tanods were caught on video beating a man with a stick for not wearing a face mask and not having a quarantine pass.
Of the four enforcers caught on tape, only one was removed from service
                ***
Following this, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday sought a full Senate investigation on the local government units’ enforcement of community quarantine protocols after Ludovica threatened to kill people for violating MECQ protocols.
Hontiveros called on the Senate Committee on Local Government to probe Ludovica and other documented cases of abuse, violence, and illegal acts committed by local officials during the enforcement of quarantine rules.
“This is not the first time that we encountered abuse and violence from local government officials while they are implementing quarantine rules),” Hontiveros said. “In Metro Manila and other areas where community quarantine have been imposed, there have been too many cases of human rights abuse and other illegal acts which we need to stop.”
In filing Senate Resolution No. 489, Hontiveros called for an in-depth probe into the brutal mauling and detention of a fish vendor by members of the task force headed by Ludovica last April for failing to wear a mask.
She noted that cases of abuse by local officials during the pandemic include the locking of violators in dog cages, keeping them under the intense heat of the sun, or subjecting them to acts of torture and sexual violence such as by forcing them to kiss one another.
The senator said these actions were in violation of the “code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees” (Republic Act 6713), as well as the prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment under the 1987 Constitution itself.
She urged the Quezon City government to “consider replacing Ludovica with someone who can actually help save, not harm, local residents.”
Belmonte said she was giving Ludovica a second chance after he apologized for posting the “shoot-to-kill” threat on his Facebook account.
Hontiveros said local government officials should act in accordance with the law and their mandate as public servants as they deal with their constituents “who are already badly affected by the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.”
“Just a reminder, the virus is our enemy here, not the people. Punitive and militarized responses to a public health pandemic will serve no purpose but to further punish those who are already suffering,” she said.

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Trump’s voter suppression strategy


PERRYSCOPE
Perry Diaz

Last July 30, two bombshells were dropped in Washington DC.  The first was the announcement that the U.S. economy shrunk at an annualized rate of 32.9% in the second quarter, the biggest decline since1947. On a non-annualized basis, GDP shrunk roughly 9.5% between the first and second quarters of 2020.  The economy saw its worst quarter in at least 145 years!
But while annualized 32.9% represents the loss of a third of the economy, that’s not exactly true.  Why? The Commerce Department reports quarterly GDP at an annual rate to allow easy comparisons to other time periods. Remove the “annualization,” and we see the economy contracted an abysmal 9.5%, which is still worse than the financial meltdown in 2008, when the GDP shrunk by 8.4%.
Double whammy
The contraction was announced as the U.S. suffered its second week of increasing unemployment, hinting signs of faltering recovery, a recovery that Trump had been hoping would rescue his re-election bid in November.  Now everything seems to have gone south.  A double whammy had just hit the White House.
This prompted Trump to tweet: "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA.  Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"
Never in the history of the United States has a presidential election been postponed, delayed or cancelled.  Not even during the civil war, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the First and Second World Wars or any event in American history.  The Americans had always exercised their right to vote on the designated Election Day, come hell or high water.
For the first time in U.S. presidential elections, a presidential candidate suggested delaying or postponing the upcoming election of November 3, 2020, which begs the question: Why is president Donald Trump suggesting delaying or postponing the election?  He claims that the “2020 election will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent” vote in history.  However, he failed to present evidence to support his claim.
But the fact that he is making false claims that the election is being rigged against him are part of his strategy to cast doubts on the veracity of the presidential election process.  They aren’t true, but they will prime his base to reject the results, and could thus throw a monkey wrench on the electoral process and could cause constitutional crisis in determining the next president of the U.S., which by itself would give Trump some avenue to challenge the results of the electoral college in the event that the results are very close.  
Although Trump has no authority to delay an election, the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting if it ever reaches that point. However, lawmakers from both parties said almost immediately there was no likelihood the election would be delayed and even some of Trump's allies said his message reflected the desperate flailing of a badly losing candidate.
But without legal basis as it was, Trump's message did provide an opening -- long feared by Democrats -- that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the presidential results. In questioning it ahead of time, Trump is priming his base to doubt the legitimacy of whatever outcome emerges in the first weeks of November.  And that’s all that Trump needs to pursue his presidential ambition to the hilt.
Sowing doubts
During the news conference that follows, Trump was asked to explain his motivations.  At first, he suggested “he was trying to avoid a drawn-out counting process that might stretch for days or weeks if large numbers of voters cast ballot by mail.”
Eventually, he acknowledged the real impact of his message: “sowing doubts early in whatever outcome emerges in November.”  "What people are now looking at is ... are all these stories right about the fact that these elections will be fraudulent, they'll be fixed, rigged," he said.
But there is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.  Indeed, American elections have proceeded smoothly during wars and depressions without delay.
But early on, Trump has previously sought to stoke fear and lay the groundwork to question the election's results by promoting the idea that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and a "rigged" election, which the Democrats have warned his efforts are meant both to suppress voting and to provide a reason to refuse to leave office should he lose. 
Up until July 30, Trump had previously denied Democratic suggestions that he would attempt to delay the election, claiming they were unfounded conspiracies.  But now the cat is out of the bag, he has openly raised the idea of moving the date of the voting.
Although attempts by Trump to picture mail-in voting as prone to manipulation, it is by far the least vulnerable to fraud and “rigged” election.  For one thing, it’s not open to Russian penetration and manipulation like what happened in 2016.  Secondly, it’s been used by many states and no anomalies or irregularities have been reported.  It’s the best way to prevent voter suppression since ballots are mailed directly to voters.  But like Trump has said in a tweet, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”  It just shows that voter suppression – a favorite strategy of Republicans – doesn’t work with mail-in voting.  However, by putting the success of the election in mail-in voting, what would happen if the mail-in voting runs into massive delay in the postal delivery for which mail-in voting is wholly dependent upon?  What if the mailed-in ballots were not delivered on time?  Can the process be sabotaged?  If so, how?
New Postmaster General
Well, Trump has already put in place the mechanism to sabotage the mail-in voting by nominating Louis DeJoy, a Republican Party fundraiser, to the position of U.S. Postmaster General.  DeJoy’s qualifications include donating $2 million to Trump’s re-election campaign and about $70,000 to the Republican National Committee.
Prior to his appointment on June 16, 2020, DeJoy was president of LDJ Global Strategies, a boutique firm with interests in real estate, private equity, consulting and project management.  Currently, he serves on the Elon University board of trustees. 
It’s interesting to note that DeJoy lacks the qualification of managing a postal delivery operation.  This led Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) to note that DeJoy’s career as political operative and close ties to Trump and the Republican Party would threaten the non-partisan nature of the Postal Service.  As a matter fact, DeJoy is the first postmaster in two decades without prior experience in the U.S. Postal Service. Critics point to apparent financial conflicts of interest, including DeJoy's investments in USPS contractors and competitors, such as UPS and trucking company J.B. Hunt.  
The fix is in!
Upon assuming office as Postmaster General, DeJoy didn’t waste time taking measures to reduce costs and slow the mail service, which seems to serve one purpose: have an adverse impact on the forthcoming presidential election.  And true enough, according to news reports, “massive mail delays hit the postal service as Donald Trump's new postmaster-General orders overtime ban and sorting machine shutdowns to save cash - raising more fears over November election.” Indeed, the fix is in!  It’s just a matter of execution.
It also reported that the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing days-long backlogs of mail, sparking fears the problem could continue into November and affect the election.
An internal report from the postal service warned almost half the states are not providing adequate time for workers to deliver ballots ahead of the election.
Many states affected are battlegrounds that could determine election result.
It was also revealed that delays are the result of changes put in place by DeJoy, who had nixed overtime pay, leading to backlogs in delivery, shutting down sorting machines early, which could affect post marks used by election boards.
Biggest areas affected are big cities, which are heavily Democratic.
It has become apparent that Trump’s appointment of DeJoy dovetails with Trump’s voter suppression strategy, which is to prevent timely counting of mailed-in ballots thus casting suspicions of irregularities and fraud. 
Trump could then challenge the electoral process and would attempt to have the ballots recounted, which is a slow and expensive process.  In short, he’ll do anything to prevent the ballots from being counted in a timely manner.  Meanwhile, it would put his base on edge waiting for the results of the election.
Déjà vu
And if the results of the electoral votes are in favor of Biden by a razor-thin margin, Trump could petition the Supreme Court to rule in any dispute regarding the certification of electoral votes just like in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore presidential contest when the Supreme Court settled a recount dispute in Florida’s 2000 presidential election.  The Supreme Court ruling awarded Florida’s 25 electoral votes to Bush, thus giving Bush a total of 271 electoral votes, one more than the required 270 electoral votes to win the Electoral College and the presidency.   It’s déjà vu all over again.
And this is where Trump hopes the conservatives in the Supreme Court would support him.  But with the voting record of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts tilting either way – he’s the ”swing vote” in the court -- there is no guarantee that Trump would get a 5-4 vote in his favor like what Bush did in 2000.
             The question is: Will Trump’s voter suppression strategy work this time? (PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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Where there is smoke, there is fire


LETTERS FROM THE AGNO
March L. Fianza

BAGUIO CITY -- Exactly, that was what happened in Beirut, Lebanon last Tuesday. Video footage on cell phones first recorded a massive cloud of white smoke rising and turning into an orange and fiery mushroom before it exploded like a giant firecracker.
Reporters said the unexpected explosion was from 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate sitting in an unsecured warehouse for the last six years at Beirut’s cargo port that led to the instant death of 137 individuals of various nationalities, more than 5,000 injured and hundreds still missing. The sudden Beirut blast just made 300,000 people homeless.
Losses from the explosion were pegged to be between US$10 billion to US$15 billion, decimating an estimated area of three square miles and affecting around 1.8 million population.
Explosions in the streets of Lebanon are not new, such as those set off by extremists and suicide bombers, but the magnitude of the latest killer is very unusual as this was triggered by accident. Residents are in shock and mourning after the enormous explosion ripped through the city’s port, reaching surrounding homes and businesses as far as four kilometers away. Shockwaves were felt 15 kilometers away.
News reports said Lebanon was already mired in the worst financial crisis in its history prior to the blast. Moreover, it happened at the time of a pandemic that one Lebanese called it “crisis upon a crisis”. Health authorities expect COVID-19 cases in Beirut to rise amid the confusion at rescue sites and hospitals.
As we express our sympathies, volunteers continue to pour in to assist others hand out food and water donated by ordinary individuals. Since a majority of the world population is affected by the health crisis, not all nations can send physical and financial aid, but prayers and moral assistance. Rebuilding will take long. God bless Beirut.
***
“Where there is smoke, there is fire” was also the statement of Senate president Vicente Sotto 111 when asked to comment on the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. that were spilled after an online shouting match occurred among officials of the company that eventually led to the resignation of one of them.
If a teleconference between PhilHealth’s president, other company officials and some Cabinet secretaries erupts into heated exchanges over project proposals then there is really hot smoke that has to be smothered before it becomes a full-blown fire.
Senator Ping Lacson said the shouting match online between the company president and board members “says it all.”
If the fight involves the President’s men, then all the more that the alleged irregularities should be investigated by the Office of the President even while the Senate launched its own “full blown” inquiry, even calling for the dismissal and prosecution of erring PhilHealth officials.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said he received a copy of the resignation letter of PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith whose allegations were viewed as very serious matters.
It also appears that Roque, a lawyer who has been into graft probes already heard of reported irregularities over PhilHealth’s P2-billion purchase of an IT system and its allocation of P300 million as reimbursements for COVID-19-related claims from hospitals in the Visayas.
If the money involved were just thousands of pesos, Malacanang and the senators could just close their eyes and let these reported anomalies pass. But the irregularities reached as much as P2 Billion in the IT purchase and the board of directors are against it because of an alleged overpriced.
Hence, Malacanang wants to get to the bottom of the allegations, especially on reports of questionable disbursements of P300 million each for hospitals in the Bicol region and Eastern Visayas despite statistics showing a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in these facilities.
Certainly, the irregularities worth billions of pesos are no laughing matter as these are directly linked to the physical and mental health of all Filipinos. The erring officials should be put under the custody of Baguio Wright Park, Pacdal pony boy Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag.

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Baguio new lockdown rule


CITY HALL BEAT
Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY –  Mayor Benjamin Magalong said a new lockdown rule prohibiting even workers from going in and out of barangays undergoing contact tracing for a maximum of 48 hours is necessary to limit the movement of people who might have come in contact with the confirmed Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and interrupt transmission of the virus.
                "Please understand and allow us to do our work.  Contact tracing is a crucial component of our fight against COVID-19 and your cooperation is a must," the mayor appealed.
The mayor last July 30 issued a memorandum spelling out the lockdown procedures for contact tracing which included a 48-hour time-out within which contact tracing teams accomplish their job and eventually determine the extent of the lockdown.
During said period, only the following will be allowed movement: barangay officials, health care and social workers, uniformed personnel, emergency response service providers, cargo and logistics services, government workers with essential functions, persons authorized by the barangays to procure essential needs, workers in utilities like water, electricity, telecommunications and waste management and members of the media.
The 48-hour time frame allows contact tracing teams to complete their mission of tracking down contacts of positive patients and allowing people including workers to go in and out while it is being undertaken would defeat the purpose.
Within 48 hours and in most cases even less, the teams interview the patient, cull information on his/her whereabouts; identify and classify those he/she had been with; track and inform the contacts; facilitate testing  isolation and quarantine protocols; and expedite the analytics using the computerized contact tracing tool to identify further links of the patients. 
                Once they have a full grasp of the situation, the teams can recommend whether to expand or limit the coverage of the lockdown to a certain area. 
Lifting of lockdown orders will only be done upon the recommendation of the teams after ensuring that all contact tracing activities have been completed, the mayor said.
                ***
This, as Magalong said he was counting on city residents to remain calm and cooperative amid the continued surge in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19 cases in the city.
 "Our people do not have to be afraid.  They just have to be careful. They have to make sure that they are aware of what is going on and that is the reason why we are very transparent by informing them every day about the new cases so they would know and be aware of what they have to do," the mayor said.
The mayor assured that the city government knows what is happening on the ground and is acting on it as the situation warrants.
He said the increased number of cases which ballooned by 91 from July 24 to August 7 was a result of aggressive testing and contact tracing and the number is expected to continue to swell as COVID response operations continue.
As of press time August 7, the city has a total of 152 cases with four deaths.
He said that the COVID-19 is not likely to go away in the near future and so people have to learn to live with it. "We have to learn to co-exist with it," the mayor said.
He asked residents to observe the minimum health standards: wear masks properly and at all times, wash hands, observe proper hygiene, follow physical distancing, avoid closed, crowded spaces and close-up conversations and limit going out of their homes to essential needs.
"For the next two weeks, please stay home and avoid travels unless absolutely necessary.  And please sustain all our health protocols, too.  It's the best we can do to safeguard ourselves and our families," the mayor appealed.
He also urged workers to avoid using common utensils for eating or drinking as this practice is now being looked into as a possible cause of the case outbreak in one sector.
"Please avoid sharing utensils. This would become part of our new normal practices including banning the use of a common shotglass in drinking sprees when we decide to lift the liquor ban again.  Please do not revert to this dangerous practice," he said.
                ***
After embarking on an aggressive sectoral testing and increased case management for COVID-19, the city is again faced with the problem on the dwindling supply of Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain React Test (RT-PCR)test kits.
Mayor Magalong who since the start of the quarantine had worked out the procurement of the test kit donation and supplies, both swab and Rapid Diagnotics Test, said he might just have to try his luck again for more donations. Otherwise, the city will be forced to use its own funds this time.
City Health Services Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo said from the 40,000 kits procured by the mayor, the city is now down to 19,000 which is not much if the surge in cases continues.
The mayor said that for now the city will have to manage the remaining kits while he tries to obtain more.
But if the city decides to continue its risk-based mass testing to identify more carriers, then it may have to resort to a puchase, albeit it will have to wait for the cheapest lot to save on cost.
Still, purchasing test kits will not be sustainable because the city has to manage its resources amid the health crisis.
"We cannot go on testing forever especially since we know that this crisis might last until the end of 2021," the mayor said.
He said that faced with meager test kits, he might have to resort to zonal lockdown or quarantine system where in the event of clustering of cases, the entire barangay or purok will be declared as critical spot and will be put on a lockdown and residents on quarantine for 14 days.
"It's either we test them or quarantine them for two weeks," he said.
 Galpo said the city conducts an average of 462 RDT tests and 75 RDT per day at present.
As of August 4, it has undertaken a total of 33,970 PCR and RDT tests which the mayor said is already high when compared to the other cities and even regions.
However, one problem is that the test is only "good as the day a person was tested" because he remains vulnerable to the virus even after testing negative of it, the mayor added.

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