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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, August 22, 2020
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with Matè Espina

Renewed call for ‘timeout’

Rock & Refuge

With the resumption of sweeper flights and vessels for LSIs, OFWs and APORs, the medical community are once again hoping that their call for a 2-week timeout will be granted.

Add to that the thousands of sacadas or sugar migrant workers who are expected to start coming by September 1st . With all these arrivals our frontliners will have their hands full thus, a call for timeout may be justifiable now to give the system time to reset.

Our cases are rising and hospitals are low on personnel as many of them have either tested positive or been placed on mandatory quarantine.

With the latest advisory from CLMMRH that they will not anymore accept swab samples from Bacolod probable as their Automated Extraction Kits has breached the critical level, this will further delay releasing of test results which in turn, may affect the turnover of repatriates in our quarantine facilities.

While there are other biolabs in town, the only government lab left is the one at the Silay provincial hospital. Since the province will be prioritizing their own residents, the Bacolod city government may have to make a deal with one of the private labs here to process their tests, which of course will be at a hefty price.

That is why I am looking forward to the “O-Plan” proposed by former Rep. Albee Benitez which he calls a “comprehensive provincewide plan,” in dealing with COVID-19 and this time, he hopes that Bacolod City will join.

If it takes an Albee to bring the province and the city together in addressing the pandemic, then he truly deserves accolades. In fact, the coordination between the city and the province is long overdue and perhaps if they started talking early on, we could have addressed this crisis better.

Albee who is presently provincial consultant for economic affairs, figured prominently at the start of the pandemic and I am glad that among his plans is to revive the daily updating by the local governments. Information is crucial and when there is only one voice talking and issuing policies for both Bacolod and Negros Occidental, there is less chances of miscommunication.

The call for “timeout” by medical frontliners is of course being opposed by the business community as this would mean another round of lockdown. Understandably, with the closure of businesses and rising unemployment, a lockdown could be very disastrous especially to our small and medium enterprises.

From reports, there is another multi-sectoral consultation which will bring the national and local governments, the medical community, the business groups to tackle the “timeout” issue, and whether this is justified or not.

In an interview yesterday, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran said that he understands the call for timeout as health facilities and other frontliners are already overwhelmed with the rising cases. As a businessman, he knows the repercussion of a lockdown “but profit can be recovered in the future while lives cannot.”

It was his birthday yesterday but El Cid was up and about doing the rounds of updating the public about developments related to the pandemic as IATF chair of Bacolod. This pandemic is said to break or make an elected official and from the get-go, I believe El Cid has made his mark in dealing with the crisis.

My warm wishes on your birthday, classmate! He is way older than me of course but we were classmate presidents in Rotary.

So how prepared are we for the resumption of flights and boat trips? The province has been dealing with the arrivals in stride as they have 31 other towns and cities that have their own quarantine facilities in their locality. Wtih the healing centers in EB Magalona, Cadiz and Mambukal Resort, they have enough spaces to distribute their repatriates.

Yesterday, Councilor Renecito Novero reported that we 19 quarantine facilities around the city. Six schools are strictly used as isolation facilities for those who have tested positive and are asymptomatic, five schools as LSI and APOR quarantine facilities, three hotels for LSIs who can afford to pay their lodging, a private academic institution that has been turned into an isolation facility just for frontliners and four more that they are preparing to convert into quarantine centers.

Still, the city government will continue to appeal to the national government to “regulate” the return of LSIs and give the LGU advance warning at least two days before the scheduled departure of repatriates so they can provide feedback whether there are enough facilities to accept those returning.

This has been the dilemma of LGUs for months now and we are like a record-player that keeps humming the same tune to the deaf ears of national agencies in charge of the repatriation program.

We are now the highest in Western Visayas and the recent projection of CLMMRH chair, Dr. Julius Drilon, shows that we may easily breach the 3,000 mark by the end of this month if we cannot address this pandemic properly.

When that happens, 2-weeks of timeout may not be enough. God bless us all.*

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