Benguet mulls ECQ if COVID-19 surge continues

BAGUIO CITY – The provincial government of Benguet is looking at the possibility of requesting the national government to place it under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) to curb the continued surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections.

Governor Melchor Diclas, in a briefing after the meeting of the provincial Inter-Agency Task Force (PIATF) on Tuesday, said this is the last resort to address the worsening COVID-19 situation in the province.

As of Monday, Benguet, which is currently under general community quarantine (GCQ), has 1,624 active COVID-19 infections after 164 new cases were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH)-Cordillera.

Diclas said stricter measures have been in place, including a total liquor ban until Sept. 30, 50 percent maximum capacity in outdoor dining services, 30 percent capacity in salons and spas, 30 percent capacity in religious services, and a ban of any social events, reception for weddings, birthdays and other occasions.

The PIATF also barred indoor sports activities while tourism activities, both for locals and tourists, are also prohibited.

Diclas also announced that wakes due to non-COVID-19 deaths will also be limited to immediate family members subject to full compliance with minimum public health and safety standards.

“We are studying imposing a market schedule again as an added control measure,” Diclas said.

He said border checkpoints are requiring a negative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result for non-residents’ essential travels.

“Let us not wait for the health system to bog down just because we will have facilities to go to. Do not go out if you do not need to because we cannot say if the person we are meeting on the road is positive of COVID-19,” he said.

Diclas said the Benguet General Hospital (BeGH) which is run by the provincial government is 100-percent full of COVID-19 patients and has set up a tent facility outside its premises to accommodate other patients.

“We have no more spaces. We are experiencing a shortage of oxygen. Help us by helping yourselves,” he said.