How to stop the COVID-19 surge? Zamboanga Sibugay resorts to ‘stricter measures’June 1, 2021
Zamboanga Sibugay wades into the creeping crisis due to COVID surge. And its residents have to live under “stricter measures” for at least until June 14.
Gov. Wilter Palma, in a statement aired over the radio on May 27, refused to call the measures as lockdown.
This is not a lockdown, he declared. But some people think, otherwise.
An unnamed businessman said: “When you impose quarantine passes for each household for them to access to essential goods and services, is it not a lockdown?”
Palma signed on May 26 a new executive order placing the entire province under “stricter measures.”
Section 7 of the order requires individuals to present quarantine passes before they be granted entry to offices of establishments. The order also allows one quarantine pass for each household, they will use to go out for only two days in a week to buy foods and other essential goods.
While the new measures allow businesses to open and operate, the businessman pointed out, fewer people go out of their homes to buy.
In Ipil, the capital town of Zamboanga Sibugay, according to a census in 2015, has a population of 74,656. On the average of five per household, this translates to 14,931 households. During daytime, the population could even go over 100,000 with people from other towns flock to the town.
The new order, however, limits the movement of the people, dividing them into three clusters. Each household belonging to a cluster can go out to the town center for two days, they are allowed to buy for their foods and other essential goods.
On the first day the order takes effect, the town public market was near empty.
A vendor, again asked not to be named, laments in dialect: “Mingaw.” Meaning, the business is less than as usual.
His sales dropped by 70 percent on the first day of the ‘lockdown.’
Other provinces in the Philippines have faced the same dilemma amid the relentless rise of COVID-19 cases.
But with the unrelenting advance of COVID-19, could these measures make a difference?
Don Milton of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health said: It is difficult to “slow it down.” That’s why Draconian measures are necessary.
In many places, shuttering down restaurants, entertainment venues, and bars had slowed down the advance of coronavirus – but the economy suffers.
“The lockdown as a strategy, if implemented absolutely correctly, in an ideal utopian world, would be very effective,” says Bhramar Mukherjee, professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
But lockdowns could crush the economy. And if a local government has to implement a lockdown as a strategy, it needs coordination and a provision of safety nets.
Surgical approach could be an alternative to broad lockdown.
This approach is not easy to implement either, because it requires big data about contact tracing. To know what towns or villages of the province have the most infections is crucial to the success of targeted restrictions.
The surgical approach could be least painful economically and socially, said Gregg Gonsalves, assistant professor in Yale School of Public Health.
To avoid full lockdown, Gonsalves said, there are places to start, such as businesses or establishments where big number of people tend to crowd.
Cost and benefits
Meantime, the provincial government opts to go for “stricter measures” instead of sweeping lockdown.
Palma said the move is not anti-economy. Businesses remain open with some restrictions. The order shuttered selected businesses such as beaches, resorts, karaoke bars, and other places of entertainment.
The governor hopes these measures could stave off the surge of COVID-19 cases in the province.
Marbyn Falcasantos, manager of Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) in Ipil, hopes the benefits in putting the province on stricter measures could outweigh the adverse effect to the local economy.
The small businesses and ordinary people, he said, bear the brunt.
PHOTO: Paolo Antonio V. Manaytay