NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Alarmed by the continued increase in cases of Covid-19 in Metro Manila, the home quarantine will be imposed to 65 years old and above as well as 18 years old and below starting Sunday in the entire province.
Gov. Art Yap signed on Saturday Executive Order No. 16 which declared a curfew for those persons belonging to the two age brackets. The order took effect immediately after signing.
Executive Order No. 15, meanwhile, orders that people will be required to wear masks as they leave their homes starting on Thursday, March 26.
The order of the governor came almost at the same time that Sec. Michael Dino, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas released his directive to all local government units in the region that those 65 years old and above and all students are asked to go on home quarantine starting today.
The order of Gov. Yap stated that the home quarantine is not for “all students” but just those 18 years old and below. However, the governor joined Sec. Dino’s directive for a 24-hour quarantine and not just during the curfew time which is 9:00 pm to 5:00 am.
The latest EO of Gov. Yap came after the five-day “off-limits” to Bohol was extended until April 12. The first EO had all seaports and the Bohol Panglao International Airport closed to incoming passengers until last Friday, March 20. With the ordered extension, all ports will remain closed until April 12, subject to evaluation on a day-to-day status of the Covid19 threat.
“The fact remains that positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Metro Manila. They have not been able to level the cases off. What is more worrisome is the fact that the DOH has said that based on an extrapolation of Philippine deaths which is at 8% now and global statistics place the death rate at 3.5%, there are possibly more than 200-400 cases which remain unreported. Where are these infected people? Who have they come into contact with?” Yap asked
Presently, Yap shares that about 5,300 people in Bohol are considered as Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) for having arrived from Manila in the last one and a half weeks. This includes Mayors, PCL members and returning residents. According to Yap, should even 5% of these PUMs graduate into Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) cases or Mild Acute Respiratory Infection (MARI) cases, the public and private hospitals in Bohol will not be able to cope with the outbreak and most especially if these cases graduate into positive COVID 19 cases.
“Presently, there was a decision arrived at two nights ago that Gallares be prepared to be transformed into a COVID hospital so that a center dedicated to fight the COVID and preserve scarce manpower and material resources was reached. But we are still working on it while we prepare as well the Capitol Annex and other municipal facilities into isolation centers.” Yap intimated.
“Considering the state we are in, and what I see as a difficulty for us to adhere to the social distancing rules, we have to take an aggressive stance to protect our people. Those over 65 years old and minors under 18 must stay in their homes and the vicinity of their homes for the remainder of the period of the community quarantine. These are vulnerable who we need to protect first since they are most susceptible.” Yap reasoned.
“The need to travel and leave their homes are also less urgent unless for medical reasons for these classes of people, considering their status as retirees and students when classes have been declared suspended,” Yap added.
In addition to these measures especially considering the frail state of the Province’s ability to combat Covid 19, Yap has ordered a “reverse isolation” policy in requiring all Boholanos who leave their homes starting Thursday this week, to wear “masks”.
Through Executive Order No. 15, Yap wants to protect Boholanos from each other considering that testing kits are only processed in Cebu and we are not aware who are asymptomatic infected carriers in Bohol of Covid 19. “At this point in time, we cannot tell who is infected or not. There are no local testing kits and people can be infected without showing symptoms. That being the case, we must at least protect ourselves from each other by reverse isolating those infected.” Yap shared.
So far the Business Community through the BCCI has expressed support for the “reverse isolation” program and is working for employers to supply masks for their employees. Yap also explained that having Bohol Mayors galvanize their local tailors and seamstresses will also be a good avenue to create jobs and opportunities on the ground. As it stands, Yap says that the Provincial Government is open to buying locally made masks that are double-sided with a slot to place a tissue filter.
After a week of preparations, Yap says that; “we are far from the ideal,” and must continue to tighten policies and the implementation of the same. “We are doing our best but in the end, only our people can save themselves by following a few simple rules: follow social distancing, stay at home and keep your surroundings clean.”
Gov. Yap ordered PNP Provincial Director Jonathan Cabal to have checkpoints along the highway stop buses, jeepneys and multicabs which do not follow the “distancing” policy among commuters. He expressed disappointment seeing public utility vehicles still jammed with passengers especially the air-conditioned vans and multicabs as well.
Those public vehicles with “excess passengers” should be stopped and let these passengers disembark even to their inconvenience if only to strictly implement the “distancing”.