March 5, 2024


When the call was made for local government units to conduct aggressive Covid-19 mass testing among their respective target population groups as soon as test kits were available and medical laboratories were in place months after the country recorded its first infections last year, we expected LGUs to make a decisive move and understand the importance of early detection of virus carriers to prevent an outbreak.
While we noted compliance as soon as needed resources were downloaded, our cases still ballooned to severe epidemic levels, bringing our current record to almost 1.3 million cases as of June 11.
Now that the vaccination of priority groups of individuals is in full swing, we wonder how the country would be able to reap the gains of a vaccinated population when many still get infected, with some cases moving around without knowing they are Covid-19 positive and are spreading the virus.
As identified by the Department of Health, we have to acknowledge there are various factors for the continuing case surge, among them is the presence of new Covid-19 variants and failure to observe the minimum public health standards.
In the Cordillera, neighbors Baguio City and Benguet are among the first LGU to have access to resources for aggressive mass testing from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, as the city wanted to reopen its economy without putting constituents’ health at risk.
The ongoing aggressive mass testing of the city – which for the longest time is able to maintain its general community quarantine (GCQ) status – was a decisive move, as it now allows the LGU to identify positive cases early and isolate them until they recover. Through this strategy, the city is able to detect cases – a considerable number in fact – which if not for aggressive testing may have continued spreading the virus.
The aggressive mass testing puts into action the PDITR strategy – prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and rehabilitation – and this is what the province of Benguet and its 13 municipalities should have implemented at the onset, considering the opportunity it had when Baguio City reached out to the province.
Early into the pandemic when infection was still low, the city shared to Benguet test kits, viral transport media, and personal protective equipment it acquired from the national government. The city also shared its facilities when cases surged in the province at one point due to clustering in its mine sites.
However, the province reportedly did not aggressively test that time, saying its cases are low and its isolation facilities may not be enough if more residents tested positive for Covid-19. Some residents also went to social media, bashing the Baguio mayor when the city tightened its borders within BLISTT.
Having more Covid-19 cases may not look good on the data sheet, but the concerned officials should have realized by now that it helps lessen the risk of more infection if we are not in the dark whom to look for and isolate, by subjecting our people to aggressive testing.
Many did not anticipate a surge in cases and we call that irresponsible. Because we knew the enemy is unseen and therefore should have known preparing for the worst is a must.
We should have done PDITR promptly.
With Benguet now set to conduct targeted testing among health-risk sectors to lessen the spread of the Covid-19 offered to them from the start, we could only say, “finally.”
We understand the frustration of the constituents of Benguet, whose status has been downgraded from GCQ to modified enhanced general community quarantine from June 1 to 15, since the restrictions are indeed greatly affecting the movements and LGUs’ economic recovery efforts.
With the support of the provincial board, the provincial governor now continues to appeal to the national IATF to take into account the situation of businesses and establishments in the province.
And so, we hope the neighboring Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tublay, and Tuba would realize it cannot afford to be indifferent in this most crucial time, when we are trying to immunize ourselves from Covid-19 through the vaccines as they arrive. Everyone wants to survive the new normal.
It is what Baguio and other LGUs are striving for, so we should not hit those who choose a hard-line strategy against the Covid-19 and instead meet extended hands and work together for communities, neighbors at that, be able to ease restrictions safely and effectively.