(This story was published in Inquirer.net on Nov. 17, 2020)
Coronavirus transmissions have slowed down in Bataan, Aklan, and Agusan del Sur, according to the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF), which has been helping those three provinces establish their own COVID-19 response system.
In a statement issued on Monday, ZFF attributed the decline in those provinces to “an integrated COVID-19 response with increased testing capacity, enhanced hospital and isolation facilities, and improved contact tracing.”
According to the statement, the effective reproduction number of COVID-19 — or Rt — in the three provinces in the first week of November was below the threshold level, which is set at 1.
The foundation pointed out that the low Rt numbers were not due to a lack of testing.
“The test per capita — or the number of individuals tested for every 100,000 population—has increased by 7% in Bataan, 11% in Aklan, and 19% in Agusan del Sur. Swab test results are released within two days of testing,” ZFF said.
Those provinces also implemented other measures that would limit the spread of the virus.
“With the biggest population among the three provinces and the closest, geographically, to Metro Manila, Bataan has begun using a QR code to monitor the movement of people to and from the province,” ZFF said.
“With these interventions, the case fatality rate (CFR) — or the proportion of deaths among infected patients — in Agusan del Sur and Bataan are kept below the global average (2.8%). Bataan’s CFR is at 1.9% and Agusan del Sur’s is at 1.6%. Aklan is still striving to bring down its 5.2% CFR,” it added.
Recent data from the Department of Health (DOH) show that COVID-19 cases nationwide have started to dwindle, with the lowest number of active cases being recorded in the last three months.
A lot of observers warned, however, that this may just be brought by the recent calamities — typhoons that forced some testing sites to temporarily suspend operations.
Aside from that, DOH itself warned that crowding in evacuation centers — which were set up in schools with the recent onslaught of three typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses — may trigger an increase in COVID-19 cases in affected areas.
To date, the country has a total of 409,574 COVID-19 patients — of whom 27,369 are considered active cases while 374,336 have recovered. The death toll stands at 7,839.
Local government play a key role in fighting the pandemic, according to the ZFF chair and president, Ernesto Garilao.
“The success of the COVID-19 response depends on the capacity of the local government units (LGUs) to identify, contact trace and test and provide quarantine facilities for the COVID-19 positives, as well as hospital care for severe cases,” Garilao said.
“Without an integrated COVID-19 responsive system, the virus will make its way to the non-infected,” he added.
Still, he believes there is more to do to ensure that the battle against the pandemic will be won.
“Investments in the local health system must be sufficient to have the following: adequate health manpower for the population, sufficient resources for the different health services, a reliable health information system, adequate medicine supply, adequate financing,” Garilao said.
“Total investments will be high but that is the price to pay for resiliency,” he added.