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Rough Cuts | Why not disperse COVID-19 response facilities?

We join our fellow Davaoenos in welcoming back the 38 persons who were flown to the city after two months of being stranded in Pampanga and Manila because of the lockdown brought about by the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The 38 Davaoenos were part of the hundreds of people who were having some travels in other parts of the country, as well as returning Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFWs) who had the misfortune of being still outside the city when the government imposed the enhanced community quarantine nationwide. They were flown to Davao from Clark in Pampanga the other day.

And since they were in cities or provinces that are hard-hit by the deadly virus, they have to undergo isolation for 14 days in their residences even if after their arrival testing indicates they do not have the COVID-19.

We can only imagine their happiness in being able to go home after their 2-months of separation from their families. And there is no doubt that their families in Davao are as happy as the stranded themselves.

We have no doubt also that their return could have been boosted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s admonition to the local government officials to accept them whole-heartedly without any whiff of discrimination.

Yes, the stranded Davaoenos have already suffered enough while away from their families. Many of them possibly went hungry, haunted by loneliness and boredom, and lack of money to sustain their stay out there.

Hence, to show them some discriminatory acts for suspicion that they could be carriers of the dreaded virus would be too much an ordeal for them to bear.

We are hoping that not only the LGU officials will show them full acceptance but also the members of their immediate communities.

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In last Tuesday’s local television broadcast we heard reports from Cagayan de Oro City about a swab specimen on a suspect COVID-19 victim being brought to Davao City for examination at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) laboratory. The SPMC examination is expected to confirm whether the swab indeed has the virus in it. If there is then that would be the time that the Cagayan “suspect” becomes an addition to the confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in Mindanao and in the entire country.

We believe that many will agree with us that the next most developed city in Mindanao after Davao is Cagayan de Oro. And it is also thickly populated. Thus, its vulnerability to the pandemic is very likely.

With this situation how come the highly urbanized northern Mindanao city is not provided with a government-operated laboratory that has facilities and equipment to analyze the swab specimen of suspected CoViD-infected individuals?

Imagine the long land travel from that city to Davao! It’s roughly five to six hours in private or government service vehicles non-stop. But it could be six hours to include stops for meals or snacks and even answering calls of nature. And to think that the SPMC laboratory has also examined swab specimens from suspected victims in the Davao Region provinces and cities!

That certainly will have the hands of the SPMC laboratory personnel full on a 24/7 basis.

Then we have this Department of Health (DOH) designation of Davao City as the main depot of personal protective equipment (PPEs) in Mindanao. This simply means that all PPEs and other protective paraphernalia for medical personnel and other crisis front liners coming from the DOH and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (NDRRMO) will have to be shipped to and stored in Davao City before these are moved to other areas of Mindanao requiring for the same.

Again we believe there might be a need to review the policies providing for this mechanism. Mindanao is quite a big area. Putting the depot in Davao City as well as having the analysis of swab specimens done at the SPMC laboratory could be very disadvantageous to both patients and medical workers in other regions of the island.

How come the Inter-Agency Task force on COVID-19 (IATF) seems unable to see this kind of weakness in the government response strategies on the health crisis?

Why cannot the DOH put up, even on temporary basis, a laboratory facility in Cagayan de Oro City or Butuan, or General Santos where travel in transporting swab specimens is much shorter than travelling to Davao City from provinces and cities in Northern Mindanao, Caraga regions and Central Mindanao?

Certainly shorter travel time, convenience, less expenses, and less chances of potential specimen contamination would be beneficial to the over-all government efforts to contain the CoViD spread.

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