By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Friday called on the national government to rethink the extension of the city’s Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) status even as he requested for additional vaccines, equipment, and personnel in battling the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Treñas sent two letters addressed to officials of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), including its Chairperson, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Chief Implementer, Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., as well as Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III.
In the first letter, the mayor asked to “re-assess and re-evaluate” the continuation of the city being under ECQ, citing several points, including the bulk of cases admitted to city hospitals, lowering number of cases, insufficient financial and food-based assistance, readiness in COVID response, and dwindling number of resources.
Based on data from the Iloilo City Health Office as of Thursday, 50.7 percent of COVID admissions in city hospitals are from Iloilo province, followed by the city itself (43.7 percent), Antique and Capiz (2.1 percent each), and Aklan and Guimaras (0.7 percent each).
The mayor in a recorded interview also cited the higher number of cases in Aklan and Iloilo province compared to the city.
Treñas urged national authorities to rely not only on the numbers, but also on the factors affecting the high occupancy rate in the city’s healthcare institutions.
“The Iloilo City Government has significantly upgraded its health systems capacity, intensified testing and isolation but over the course of all this, the ECQ status imposed barely averted the surge in cases as the fact remains that it is battling with new COVID variants. It goes without saying that the extension of the ECQ will have more negative impact on the majority of people,” the mayor said in his letter.
During the recorded interview, the mayor also confirmed that he would no longer extend the “hard lockdown” after August 8.
But Executive Order No. 071 that mandated the return to the regular ECQ and issued on Friday had almost the same provisions as the hard lockdown EO (EO No. 070).
Treñas said that he preferred the city under the less restrictive Modified ECQ, like Iloilo province and Aklan.
When asked whether the ECQ was effective, he admitted not knowing, saying that the spread of COVID-19 was more about the transmission.
“Well, we do not really know, because we do not know what happens with the transmission [of COVID-19]. We undergo ECQ, MECQ, GCQ, MGCQ, but at the end of it is the transmission,” Treñas said during a press briefing.
In the second letter, Treñas requested for an increased allocation for COVID-19 vaccines, citing a depleting number of vials in the city’s arsenal.
This letter was also addressed to Lorenzana, Galvez, and Densing, as well as Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and NTF Deputy Chief Implementer Vivencio Dizon.
He stated that while the city has administered to as high as 15,500 COVID-19 jabs per day, only 24.49 percent of its target population has been fully vaccinated. The current supply is also expected to last only up to August 19.
The city government originally targeted 425,000 persons out of its projected population of 450,000, but Treñas ordered to increase the target to 525,000 to include an approximate of 100,000 workers who are residents of other areas in Western Visayas.
“At such rate, the remaining vaccines we have at our disposal shall only last until August 19, 2021,” he added.
Treñas stressed that the city, being the regional hub and trade center, has also been inoculating non-residents who are working in the metro.
“Even with our aggressive vaccine roll out, only 24.9% of our target population has been fully vaccinated as of August 6. Needless to say, we still have a huge population to cover,” he said.
Aside from additional vaccines, the city also requested augmentation of medical personnel, medical equipment and other forms of assistance from the national government following the extended ECQ.
The mayor lamented that the high health care utilization rate (HCUR) in the metro, which was the basis for its quarantine classification, was caused by the continued admission of patients from the neighboring provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, and Guimaras.
Hence, the mayor sought assistance of the Department of Health (DOH) to open more ICU beds in the neighboring provinces to ease the burden of city-based hospitals.
To help exhausted medical frontliners, the mayor also requested augmentation of medical personnel in the metro.
“Having a daily average of 88 new cases for the past four weeks and a significant number of individuals on the hospital waiting list, our medical frontliners are nothing but exhausted. We have even asked for the services of our uniformed personnel who are medical professionals. Thus, we are pleading with you to send us healthcare workers to buffer the strain currently experienced by our own frontliners,” he said.
Treñas also noted the shortage of COVID-19 medications and equipment in the metro due to the region-wide surge in cases.
“With the region-wide surge we are experiencing, there is an inevitable shortage in Covid-19 related medications. We dare not imagine how many more lives may be lost on account of shortage of medicine. We also ask for your munificence in providing us with mechanical ventilators, high flow O2 cannulas, and Bilevel positive airway pressure ventilators,” he appealed.
As of Friday, Iloilo City recorded 89 new COVID-19 cases, pushing its total active cases to 1,320 with 376 deaths. (With a report from ERS)