BY CARLA P. GOMEZ
President Rodrigo Duterte has instructed us to provide all the support needed to curb the alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino, said yesterday.
“We want the people of Negros to feel that the national government is here and is very concerned and is very serious in helping the area,” Dino told the DAILY STAR.
They are also assessing whether Bacolod City, that is now under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ), needs to go back to Enhanced Community Quarantine and will give their recommendation to the National Inter-Agency Task Force and the president, he said.
The most important thing to do for now is to do granular lockdowns in specific COVID-hit areas and conduct more testing, which Bacolod and Negros Occidental officials are already planning to do, he said.
If the laboratories in Bacolod City cannot handle all of the swab specimens for mass COVID-19 tests, they can be sent to the Region 7 laboratory, where results can be released in two to three days, Dino said.
They have earmarked 1,000 tests per day for Iloilo and Bacolod cities to be conducted in Region 7, he said.
Dino, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, overseer of the Task Force COVID-19 in Cebu, and retired general Mel Feliciano, the task force’s deputy overseer, arrived in Bacolod City yesterday afternoon.
Dino said Cimatu and Feliciano will return to Bacolod City on Tuesday with additional health workers and supplies to fight the deadly virus.
“We are here to assess what is needed,” he said.
They met with Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, and provincial economic consultant Alfredo Benitez last night, and will meet with Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who sought the president’s help, today.
“We will be talking about how we can coordinate, support and help,” Dino said.
The local officials will still take the lead role in the COVID-19 fight and the national government will support in whatever way it can, Dino added.
Lacson said they were invited to join the Bacolod City officials today when the group of Cimatu present their experience in the fight versus COVID-19 in Cebu.
What Bacolod is experiencing right now, such as overwhelmed hospitals, and lack of health personnel, personal protective equipment and quarantine facilities, also happened in Cebu prompting the president to send Cimatu and Feliciano there and they were able to arrest the situation, Dino said.
Since Bacolod City and Negros Occidental are also having difficulty coping with the COVID-19 situation now they were sent by the president and Senator Bong Go, he said.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel because we have already done it in Cebu. Cebu is right now the model of how to fight to COVID-19,” Dino said.
The COVID-19 cases in Cebu City have dropped tremendously, he is confident it will be placed under MGCQ by September 1, he added.
The hospital bed utilization for COVID-19 patients in Cebu City has dropped, he said. Even the number of occupants in their barangay isolation and step down facilities dropped to 15 to 20 percent utilization, Dino said.
Dino said the number of COVID-19 cases in Bacolod City and Negros Occidental can be brought down through self-discipline, which is the most important.
“The government cannot watch you 24 hours a day, so you yourself should be your own frontliner…you should be more careful and wear your mask and face shield, and do social distancing,” he said.
No matter how many COVID-19 hospital beds and health personnel are added, without discipline down to the barangay and sitio level nothing will happen, Dino said.
Cimatu and Feliciano will put up a system in Bacolod and Iloilo cities to help cut down or downsize the enemy, he said.
If there is discipline and all the protocols are followed he is sure within 15 days the COVID-19 numbers in the area will go down and the health care system will be better, he said.
Region 7 has a list of doctors and nurses who are willing to come to Bacolod and Negros Occidental to help and the Department of Health has a budget for this, he said.
The AFP Central Command headed by Lt. Gen. Roberto Ancan is also sending two to three teams to Iloilo and Bacolod cities to help in the fight versus COVID-19, Dino said.*