Members of the Negros Oriental Inter-Agency Task Force meeting with doctors and the media to talk about the spike in Covid-19 cases in the province. (PIA Negros Oriental)

The Dumaguete City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) has traced recent spikes in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections to parties held in the city’s entertainment districts.

Dr. Kenneth Coo, Dumaguete IATF member and medical director of Holy Child Hospital, cited City Health Officer Dr. Maria Sarah Talla’s report that most new cases had attended parties.

“Almost all the new positives are because of parties, especially birthday parties. We can celebrate birthdays without parties,” Coo said in a mix of English and Bisaya. “Please, no parties, no mass gatherings!”

Coo, national chair of the Philippine College of Physicians-Crisis Preparedness and Management Committee, appealed to the public to avoid mass gatherings while the province was still under community transmission. Hospital Covid facilities were full, he said.

“We are already in a nightmare!” Coo exclaimed.

The Dumaguete IATF is set to release a new order that will impose stricter protocols on mass gatherings like parties and even wakes, Coo said.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Central Visayas has ordered mass testing in Dumaguete City following a recent spike in cases throughout Negros Oriental.

Dr. Liland Estacion, incident commander of the Provincial IATF, said DOH Central Visayas Director Dr. Jamie Bernadas gave the order after he attended Monday the National and Regional Peace and Order Council meetings.

There will be a quota of 500 to 600 tests per day in Dumaguete for the next two weeks to assess the Covid-19 situation in the city and the province.

Dr. Socrates Villamor, DOH Negros Oriental head, has been directed to coordinate with local authorities if there was a need to augment personnel for the mass testing, Estacion said.

Bernadas warned the public that Covid-19 infections were not yet at their “peak,” adding that more cases were expected in days to come, Estacion said.

Bernadas has urged local government units to prepare more isolation and quarantine facilities for the possible spike in Covid-19 infections.

Hotels, boarding houses, and even schools will be used as isolation facilities for mild cases as Covid-19 wards in hospitals were “overwhelmed,” he added.

The DOH has also asked local hospitals to increase their Covid-19 ward capacity to 30%, in compliance with government standards, she added. The health department was willing to augment the workforce as needed, following reports that hospitals lacked nurses.

Bernadas however was opposed to placing the province under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Estacion said.

“We have to balance the economy and our health,” Estacion said. “If we can’t feed people, we will have more problems. There should be massive testing then we have to contain the people and less movement.” Ryan Sorote