By Tracy Cabrera
Cagayan de Oro City mayor Oscar Moreno (left) and Surigao City mayor Ernesto Matugas (right).
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — At least 10 city employees in Cagayan de Oro City are under investigation over reports that they had been vaccinated ahead of those who are in the Covid-19 priority list of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).
According to Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, he ordered the probe to ascertain the circumstances behind the vaccination of the city hall employees who were not among the IATF’s prioritization scheme approved by the national government.
“I am asking the city department head to explain the inclusion of nonmedical personnel,” Moreno said while disclosing that he has the list of those who got vaccinated before the required frontline workers of the city.
Aside from Cagayan de Oro City, there were also reports that some non-medical workers from other parts of Northern Mindanao were also vaccinated despite not being on the priority list.
The mayor said the priority list must be strictly followed to ensure the smooth vaccination program of the government. Aside from medical workers, those included in the priority list are senior citizens and people who are tagged with comorbidities.
Moreno admitted that he himself is excited to get vaccinated but would rather wait for his turn so as not to trigger a backlash from the public.
Prior to this, the Department of Health (DoH) had warned that any infraction of the vaccine prioritization policy could jeopardize the delivery of the free vaccines from the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization-led COVAX Facility of the World Health Organization.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had repeatedly appealed to local government executives to follow the priority list so that the delivery of vaccines to the country would not be hampered or halted because of the infractions.
COVAX has actually issued a priority list for those who will first among those to be inoculated and since the vaccines from the facility will be donated, it can call the shot as to which country will also be given priority for the vaccine supply.
“Not doing such will risk us not receiving future supplies not only from the COVAX facility but even in our other engagements that it is all part of those agreements that we have to follow the National Vaccine Deployment Plan and this is really because there is a global supply shortage,” DoH Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control director Dr. Nikka Hao pointed out.
Meanwhile, with the Caraga Administrative Region recording a total of more than 8,000 infections on the latest count, with 351 remaining active and 313 deaths, the Surigao City government has decided to close all its beaches to tourists during Holy Week.
Surigao City mayor Ernesto Matugas explained that the closure order was made based on the continuing spike in the number of Covid-19 cases even as he underscored the need for the continued implementation of proactive measures that would ensure the utmost protection and health safety of his constituents.
The closure of all beaches within the jurisdiction of the city area to both local and nonlocal tourists will take effect from 27 March until 4 April.
Surigao’s supervising tourism operations officer Roselyn Armida Merlin explained in an interview that the city is taking precautionary measures against the possible surge of Covid-19 cases during the Lenten break.
“We can’t control the number of people who will go to the beach especially on Black Saturday and Easter Sunday. We are also afraid of transmission, especially now that the Caraga region has already recorded a case of Covid-19 UK (United Kingdom) variant,” Merlin pointed out.
Philippines Travel, the marketing website of the Department of Tourism cited Surigao City popularly known as the City of Island Adventure as “a haven of leisure and adventure” because of its 17 panoramic islands with long stretches of pristine white sand beaches, mystical caves, vast mangrove forest and underwater sceneries.
Recent developments, however, particularly the surging number of Covid infections have impacted its tourism program, and many travelers have been barred entry to its famed vacation spots. (AI/MTVN)