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Rising Cases of Local Transmission of COVID-19 Prompts Ebdane To Seek ECQ Extension In Zambales

by Louella G. Vizcocho

WITH the continuing transmission of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and the risk of a second wave of infections, Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. wants the extension of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Zambales province, at least until the end of the month May.

“The health of our residents remains our primary priority,” Ebdane said in a letter request to Director Julie J. Daquioag, chairperson of the Central Luzon Regional Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (RIATF), “local transmission is still increasing and our hospital capacity will not be able to accommodate the surge of patients once the restrictions are lifted.”

Zambales has been placed under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) and classified as moderate-risk of Covid-19, but according to Ebdane, local health officials still see a high prevalence of Covid-19 transmission in the province, thus, his request for ECQ extension in the province.

He pointed out that while the bed capacity at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital is only 235, there are already 158 patients admitted with 130 of those still awaiting the results of their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. “What we are really concerned about is a more severe second wave if we fail to isolate COVID-19 patients,” Ebdane added.

He said that local officials had recommended the extension of ECQ “with the hope that the situation will improve in another 15 days so we can fully shift to a GCQ.” Zambales, which has a population of 590,848 in the 2015 census, has reported 18 confirmed Covid-19 cases, as well as a total of five recoveries and one death as of May 13.

Figures from the Provincial Health Office (PHO) indicated that nine of the 13 Zambales towns had confirmed cases while the four northernmost towns had none. Residents attributed this to strict quarantine measures implemented by the provincial government.

Ebdane had earlier said that the Covid-19 situation in Zambales “had been properly managed” following the implementation of what he called the “7-14-14” program. This involved seven days “sweeping” with rapid testing and confirmatory tests; 14 days of treatment and follow-up contact tracing; and 14 days of convalescence and recovery.

The provincial government also enforced strict health protocols for returning residents, among them overseas workers, students, and laborers employed elsewhere. “Our target was to get to the summit, or the peak of the curve, before April 30 so we can have a ‘cliff’ after that,” Ebdane said.

However, with rapid testing, it was found out that were a number of frontliners and LGU personnel probably afflicted by Covid-19, Ebdane said. “These had to undergo confirmatory tests,” he added. Prior to Ebdane’s request for extension of ECQ, the Association of Municipal Health Officers (AMHO) in Zambales had called for similar extension “for us to be assured that the spread of Covid-19 is totally halted.”

“We do not want all our collective efforts (against Covid-19) to be put into waste. We cannot afford the emergence of a second wave,” the health officers said in a letter to Ebdane.

At least two other provinces – Bataan and Bulacan – in Central Luzon have requested for ECQ extension for similar reasons.

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