Last week, CLMMRH Medical Director, Dr. Julius Drilon, announced that results from their molecular laboratory, where most swab tests from Bacolod residents are being processed, showed a high positivity rate of more than 40 percent. That’s four out of ten people being swabbed, testing positive.

That is exactly what happened in our household. After our brother, Nonoy, tested positive, 11 of us left at home got swabbed and five tested positive. That’s the reason why I missed out on my columns in the last two weeks because of a family crisis and the anxiety of awaiting the swab results.

Over a week ago, the medical community also appealed before the city government for stricter enforcement of health protocols and asked for a “time out.” But in a joint meeting with the business community, they had to find the balance so that the economy will not collapse, as most of the small and medium businesses said they cannot anymore afford a stricter lockdown.

The balance that the city found was to move the curfew by one hour, enforce the no-drinking of liquor in restaurants and reiterated their appeal to avoid social gathering.

Fast forward a week later. Neighbours Iloilo and Dumaguete remain or have been upgraded to a stricter quarantine status of MECQ, respectively, by the NIATF. Our city and province remain under MGCQ despite having a higher number of positive cases.

The province accepted the decision but responded with stricter enforcement of border controls, mobilizing the police to implement measures and the closure of recreational spots to avoid super spreader activities, especially in the coming Feast of St. John.

I’ve always questioned the wisdom of the NIATF since this pandemic started and I am not sure what data they use for decision-making. But I admire the tenacity of Iloilo Mayor Jerry Trenas for making sure his voice is heard over the din and to implement what he feels is good for his city.

In fact, even if Iloilo remains under MECQ, Mayor Trenas allowed the reopening of certain establishments to ensure a balance. He issues orders based on real-time data.

The medical community was understandably saddened by that decision to retain MGCQ in Bacolod and Negros Occidental. They feel the NIATF disregarded the alarms they raised.

In a statement, the Philippine College of Physicians-Negros Occidental Chapter said, “We just wanted to have a Time Out (MECQ), this means limitation of movement of the community for at least 2 weeks to halt the transmission of the virus from one household to another. In effect this will decongest the hospitals and facilities. Now it seems that we are left unarmed but we still continue to call and appeal to all Bacolenos and Negrenses. We have been heard but we wanted to be listened to.”

Dr. Drilon also issued a warning that the health system is near collapse and “drastic bold decisions need to be made now because the primary defense against COVID-19 in the communities has bogged down.”

As if the NIATF decision wasn’t enough, the announcement of Mayor Bing Leonardia that the city’s Charter Anniversary celebration will push through is clearly a slap on the face of our overworked medical community.

I am very outraged that the city appeals we avoid social gatherings yet will push through with an on-ground non-sensical event with a choir and the Masskara dancers to welcome who?!!! – the president’s legal counsel, Salvador Panelo whom the mayor described as “an important link in keeping our communication lines with the national government open during these difficult times.”

Mayor Bing forgot that as president of the league of cities in the country, he holds an important position and has clout – that is, if he exercises political will. And clearly, while the medical community are in tears over this development, the mayor is “happy” that Panelo graciously accepted his invitation to come for the celebration.

Of course, we expect all city officials in attendance and perhaps even the SK and barangay officials’ presence will be required as well. That number alone, plus the choir and dancers, defies the logic of the city government dissuading the people to hold social gatherings.

As the saying goes, a leader sets an example and the people follow. How else will we implement the no social gathering if we ourselves disregard what we preach? Unless in the mind of our city officials, they are always exempt from the rule. Ahh….how I wish the rest of our elected officials are responsible enough to stay away and discourage this kind of event.

I hope that the medical community, the business sector, and the people themselves will call out the city government and urge that this kind of event should be discouraged.

The longer we ignore health protocols and common sense, the longer our continued suffering will be.*

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