ILIGAN CITY (4 September 2020) – Scaling up testing capacity, building more health care facilities, and discouraging residents from doing home quarantine are among the key measures this city’s local government will carry out for Iligan to be downgraded from its current Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) status.

This was the assurance made by Iligan Mayor Celso Regencia to members of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) Team during their visit to this northern Mindanao city on Friday.

Regencia said the city government “will re-examine and re-engineer our local strategies in containing the spread of the virus,” and that measures are now being undertaken to augment the current bed capacity of the city’s health facilities dedicated for COVID-19 patients.

“It is expected that very soon, especially with the assistance of NTF Against COVID-19, the city will have ample isolation units and other laboratory facilities and mechanical ventilators in our 119-bed capacity city hospital,” Regencia said.

As of September 3, Iligan has recorded a total of 377 COVID-19 cases, 142 of which have already recovered while 14 have died. The city is the only area in the country that has been placed under MECQ.

According to National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., the CODE Team will assist the Iligan City government in establishing a One Hospital Command, facilitate the accreditation of its COVID-19 testing laboratory, strengthen its syndromic surveillance contact tracing system, and build more health care facilities in the area.

“Ang Iligan (City) ang kaisa-isang city na under sa MECQ sa buong bansa. Dapat ang lahat ng LGUs magtulung-tulungan tayo dahil Iligan City ay center spot. Dapat may 700 to 1,000 mega care facilities kaya kailangang magdagdag ng quarantine facilities at care facilities sa bawat barangay,” Galvez said.

DOH Regional Director Dr. Adriano P. Suba-an is optimistic that the “battle-tested” people of Northern Mindanao will overcome this health crisis by banding together and working hand in hand, with the continued support of the national government.

“The DOH lauds the resiliency of battle-tested people of Northern Mindanao. We appreciate their openness and humility to open themselves to come up with plans. And every time you (NTF COVID-19) come here, bringing national decision-makers, exposing us to all opportunities that you bring along with you, nagpapasalamat po kami,” Suba-an said.

More health care facilities, key to curbing the virus

To contain the spread of the virus at the community level, the chief implementer discouraged the practice of home quarantine

“Yung naka-home quarantine sa Iligan City kailangan tanggalin na po natin yung home quarantine kasi po ‘yan po ang aming nakita sa mga ibang lugar, 70% ay naka-home quarantine kaya nag-spike (ang number of cases) ng napakalaki,” Galvez said.

He explained that providing medical attention to COVID-19 patients at designated health care facilities will significantly increase their chances of recovering from the disease, and at the same time, prevent the virus from spreading.

Galvez stressed among the LGUs of Iligan, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Marawi the need to dovetail their coronavirus prevention and mitigation measures to the government’s National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19.

He said that minimum health standards must be strictly implemented in private establishments and workplaces, while business owners must also be required to have business continuity plans in line with the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate or P-D-I-T-R strategy of the NAP.

“Dapat maghigpit tayo sa business sector, kailangan may sarili silang isolation facilities. [Dapat] mas stringent sa business at workplace. ‘Pag in-open ang ekonomiya, dapat strict tayo at palakasin natin ang ating contact tracing,” he said, noting that Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City are among the central economic hubs in Northern Mindanao.

Galvez said that based on the results of rigorous scientific assessments, the government learned that local transmissions are most prevalent in business establishments and places of work.

He said that the highest rates of infection happen at areas of convergence such as canteens, common smoking areas, and in shuttle services provided by companies for their employees.

According to Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, the government’s COVID-19 response efforts will ensure that local “transmissions will be controlled and those who tested positive for the virus will be treated.” .

“It (COVID-19 pandemic) has impacted us not only on an individual and community level but also in an economic, financial, livelihood, governmental and a lot more,” Andanar said.

“We have tested over 1.5% of our total population, as we now have more accredited COVID-19 laboratories nationwide. [We] have surpassed major countries in Asia and we are the top country in SouthEast Asia in this regard,” he added.


Prevention is key

Meanwhile, Galvez reminded LGUs that prevention will be the key in curbing the spread of the disease.

They must ensure that their constituents wear face masks, face shields, strictly observe physical distancing, sanitize common dining areas, and discourage people from converging in communal areas.

The chief implementer also led the turnover of 2,000 test kits, 4,000 KN95 masks, 2,000 N88 masks, and 2,000 PPEs to the Iligan City government. He also pledged to report to DOH and to partner agencies to provide High Flow Nasal Cannulas to Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City, Iligan City , and Lanao del Norte.

Galvez was joined by Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Assistant Secretary Wilben Mayor, NTF COVID-19 Special Adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa, and Department of Health (DOH) Director Gloria Balboa.

Other officials present were Lanao del Norte Governor Imelda Dimaporo, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr, Marawi City Mayor Majul U. Gandamra, and local barangay chairpersons.###