The Dinagat Islands province is appealing to the Department of Health (DOH) to allow it to start the vaccination of frontline personnel in essential sectors, or the A4 priority group, as the province has become a “high risk” area, a health official said.

Dr. Jillian Lee, the provincial health officer, said the province had received additional vaccine supply but had fully vaccinated only 2.2 percent of its estimated 127,000 population, or about 2,800 locals, under the A1 to A3 priority groups.

“Since high risk na ‘yong area namin and…may mga tao na kailangan mag-work [mula sa iba’t ibang ahensya] ng region, nagsisigurado na ang mga Dinagatnon ay habang sila ay naka-quarantine, habang sila ay hindi puwede lumabas ng kanilang mga probinsya, ng kanilang mga munisipyo, ay makakain, may other essential sectors na kinakailangan din na maka-receive ng bakuna,” Lee said in the Laging Handa government briefing on July 3.

As of last week, more than 6,700 residents have been given their first dose, while more than 2,700 people have received two doses of either AstraZeneca or Sinovac vaccines.

As of July 3, the Dinagat Islands has recorded 80 active cases. Since the first recorded case in August 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases in the province has reached 1,094, with 964 recovered cases and 50 deaths. Six Beta variant cases were logged in April.

Lee said the surge in cases began when the Inter-Agency Task Force Against Covid-19 released a memorandum in late February that removed the mandatory quarantine requirement for travelers.

Moreover, the province, which only has 20 doctors, three district hospitals with a 10-bed capacity (only accredited by the DOH as infirmaries) and with no intensive care and mechanical ventilation available, needed to accommodate 30 patients per hospital at any given time during the surge.

“Very limited ang capability ng health system ng province of Dinagat Islands na mag-deal sa isang surge ng cases ng Covid-19 so kahit ngayon nararamdaman din siya. Sa ibang lalawigan siguro ang 80 cases kayang-kaya na nilang i-handle, pero sa province namin, crisis level na siya,” Dr. Lee said.

The province is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ), the second strictest form of lockdown, but the health official said the province has implemented similar measures since June, which slowed down Covid-19 case numbers. Jelo Ritzhie Mantaring