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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bacolod City Rises Above The Challenges Of COVID-19

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Just like any other local government unit (LGU) in the Philippines, this city had to come to terms with the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the year 2020.

Bacolod had just come from a banner year after being declared the 2019 Top Philippine Model City by The Manila Times, and the city government was geared up to sustain the momentum when the pandemic struck, practically putting the local economy to a halt when lockdowns were imposed to contain the spread of the virus.

In mid-March, Mayor Evelio Leonardia issued an order, placing the city under general community quarantine effective (GCQ), restricting all land, sea and air travel to and from Bacolod.

As the threat of Covid-19 became evident, the mayor enforced an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), two weeks later, from March 30 to April 14. The ECQ was extended until April 30, and eventually until May 15.

During the one-and-a-half months ECQ, operations of business establishments, except those providing essential services such as supermarkets and drug stores, were stopped. Operations of public utility vehicles were also suspended.

From March to June, confirmed cases were still in small numbers. In June, records showed an average of one case per day, but in July, the city was already logging an average of eight per day. By August, Bacolod had 1,050 positive cases or an average of 34 per day.

Appeal for help

On August 25, Leonardia sent an urgent letter of appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte asking for the deployment of additional healthcare workers to Bacolod, following the spike in Covid-2019 cases in the city.

Two days later, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, who headed the special mission that contained the Covid-19 outbreak in Cebu City, arrived to assess the situation here.

They were also joined by retired Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, the chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF)-Visayas, who eventually stayed in Bacolod for two months.

As part of the response, personnel of the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas and medical teams of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were also deployed to Bacolod.

More than a week after the assessment, Bacolod was placed by the national IATF under modified ECQ from September 8 to 30, again putting a stop to the operations of most business establishments and suspending public transport.

During the MECQ, Feliciano, together with his wife Mia, a nurse with extensive clinical experience both in the Philippines and the United States, began supervising the creation of the Emergency Operations Center that coordinates the city’s centralized Covid-19 response operations.

Covid-19 cases steadily drop

On the third to fourth week of September, Bacolod was still averaging 50 cases per day, but between the first and second week of October, cases have gone down to an average of only 25 cases a day due to effective interventions and systems being implemented to curb local transmission.

As Bacolod continues to improve its response to the pandemic, more Covid-19 facilities were put up here, including the 32-bed isolation and quarantine units in Barangay Alijis built by the Department of Public Works and Highways and inaugurated by Secretary Vivencio “Vince” Dizon, deputy chief implementer of National Task Force for Covid-19, on October 30.

After Feliciano’s team left Bacolod on Nov. 2, Covid-19 cases here have steadily gone down along with the capacity utilization rate in all seven hospitals under the EOC’s One Hospital Command Center.

After being under GCQ in October and November, Bacolod has reverted to modified general community quarantine status from December 1 until the year-end.

On the third week of December, at least 47 of the 61 villages in Bacolod were considered Covid-free.

The city’s improving Covid-19 situation prompted Leonardia to ease the curfew hours for December and even suspended curfew on December 24 and 31 to allow Bacolodnons more time to celebrate the holidays.

On December 27 and 30, Bacolod reported zero cases and zero deaths, based on the figures of the DOH-Western Visayas released by the City Health Office.

Its recovery rate reached 95.56 percent, which means 5,342 patients already recovered out of the 5,590 confirmed cases as of December 30. Bacolod has 71 remaining active cases and 177 deaths.

Again, just like in any other LGU, the city’s leadership was not spared from criticisms on how it handled the Covid-19 response.

However, the “thing speaks for itself” – Bacolod is in a better situation now after battling the spike in cases some five months ago.

It also capped the year being the Most Competitive City in the Visayas in 2020, based on the data released by the National Competitiveness Council on the 2020 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, an annual ranking of Philippine cities and municipalities.
(Nanette Guadalquiver via Philippine News Agency (PNA), photo courtesy of PNA)

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