Zamboanga sees spike in COVID-19 cases
Virus hot spot shifts from city jail to communities
By Julie S. Alipala
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2020-08-01 05:04:32

SURGE A surge in COVID-19 infections has been observed by health and local officials in at least seven villages of Zamboanga City. —JULIE S. ALIPALA

ZAMBOANGA CITY—On July 11, a 78-year-old woman from Barangay Zone 2 here was admitted in a hospital for diarrhea. Two days later, she was tested positive for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

By July 15, her son, who watched over her at the hospital, was also found to be infected with the virus. Thirteen days after the mother was confirmed to have contracted the virus, 26 other family members, among them 10 children, tested positive for COVID-19.

Community transmission has driven the surge of COVID-19 cases in the city since July. As of July 28, 546 cases were recorded in the city, a 152-percent increase from the 217 cases on June 30.

Of the 329 cases from July 1 to July 28, 78 were returnees, 22 were former inmates and 229 residents from 32 of the city’s 98 villages. As of Friday, the number of active cases had reached 263.

In July, deaths due to COVID-19 worsened. From only six recorded from March 24 to June 30, 10 more deaths were added.

Epicenter shift

“Local transmission is high and we are doing our best to address this,” said Dulce Amor Miravite, city health officer.

From the city jail, where 90 percent of cases were reported in April and May, the epicenter of infections shifted to the densely populated urban communities, especially when quarantine restrictions were eased in June.

As of July 25, the city health office had identified the villages of San Jose Gusu, Sto. Niño, Calarian, Sta. Maria, Camino Nuevo, Campo Islam and Mampang as hot spots.

At least 28 other villages recorded COVID-19 infections, up from only seven in April.

Apart from a clustering of cases in Barangay Zone 2, five other clusters in two villages, all involving 66 cases, were recorded by the local COVID-19 task force.

Miravite said that apart from neighborhoods, virus transmissions were also recorded in workplaces in private and government agencies.

ReturneesMore than a week ago, the City Hall was closed for three days for disinfection after five employees, including one in the office of Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, tested positive for COVID-19.

By June, while the number of cases due to local transmission started to increase in seven villages, cases in the city jail started dropping. However, infections among returnees were contributing to the steady increase in cases.

Salazar had laid out plans to build an isolation facility where returnees would complete their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Sarita Sebastian, city tourism officer, said 8,000 people had returned to the city since May 30, most of them coming from virus hot spots like Metro Manila and Cebu.

The national task force overseeing the fight against COVID-19 has placed Zamboanga City under general community quarantine until Aug. 15.

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