#COVID-19 Regional Updates

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FPI backs modified quarantine rules with pocket lockdowns

THE Federation of Philippine Industries, Inc. (FPI) is endorsing a shift to a modified general community quarantine (GCQ) policy by May 16 wherein restrictions on businesses will be eased and lockdowns to be imposed in smaller zones under high risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmissions. A modified GCQ is one of the recommendations by the Metro Manila Council (MMC) to the national task force handling the crisis. “I am humbly endorsing the Modified GCC under option three (3) because this will practically put balance on the current serious health and economic problem caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic which is gravely affecting the country,” FPI Chairman Jesus Lim Arranza said in a letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Monday. Other options put forward by MMC, composed of mayors in the capital Metro Manila and representatives from other agencies, were a two-week extension of the strict quarantine or a GCQ. Mr. Arranza said FPI supports the option where local governments can impose lockdowns on specific barangays as needed because this would allow qualified manufacturing industries to resume operations. “This will consequently create the necessary economic activity that will allow the companies to be able to generate funds not only to pay the salaries of their employees, but, also to pay the government the needed revenues, particularly during these difficult times,” he said. The country had over 11,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May 11, with about 65% located in Metro Manila. — Jenina P. Ibañez

Eastern Visayas COVID-19 test lab starts operations; Northern Mindanao facilities on trial run this week

THE Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC), based in Tacloban City, started coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing on Monday, boosting local health authorities’ ability to confirm and respond to cases. The Eastern Visayas — composed of the provinces of Biliran, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, Eastern Samar, and Southern Leyte plus the independent cities of Ormoc and Tacloban — so far has 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of the total, five have recovered while 14 are still under hospital care. With majority of the cases in Samar, Department of Health (DoH) Regional Director Minerva P. Molon said they are closely working with provincial officials on response and containment measures. As of May 10, the region was still awaiting the results of 231 samples sent to the laboratory in Cebu City before the opening of its own facility. Majority of results that were released last week were negative, Ms. Molon reported. “More test results are turning negative, however, this does not mean that we have already flattened the curve for COVID-19 and it is still too early to determine such indicator,” she said. With the EVRMC laboratory now in operation, the region will be able to gather more data with a faster turnaround of results from collected samples. The lab, which has a full capacity for 700 samples a day, will start with processing under 100 samples.

In Cagayan de Oro City, the DoH Northern Mindanao regional office will undergo proficiency testing for its facility in Barangay Carmen which has a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine donated by the city government. The Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) will undertake a similar dry run with its own PCR equipment. This week’s tests for the two facilities comprise the last stage before full accreditation for full-scale testings. The DoH lab will initially be able to handle 100 tests a day, but DoH Assistant Regional Director David Mendoza, in a statement, said the facility space and staff can handle two more similar machines. The private hospital Polymedic Medical Plaza, also located in the city, is likewise preparing to be an accredited COVID-19 laboratory.