GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The provincial government of South Cotabato warned local government leaders and employees to strictly comply with the restrictions on mass gatherings in the wake of the prevailing general community quarantine (GCQ) or face possible sanctions.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. issued the warning on Monday amid reports on gatherings taking place in some areas even as the province continues to grapple with the community transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Under GCQ, Tamayo reiterated that mass gatherings, including those initiated by local government units, are prohibited.
He said some events are allowed but only at 30 percent venue capacity, while weddings and wakes should be limited to 10 persons.
The national Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases extended last week the province’s GCQ status until July 31 due to the high incidence of Covid-19 in the area.
Rudy Jimenea, head executive assistant of the provincial governor’s office, said one of the events monitored by the provincial government was a recent wedding reception held at the municipal gymnasium of Lake Sebu that was reportedly joined by some local officials.
He said the incident had been reported by concerned citizens to the national government’s 8888 complaint hotline.
The official said the event happened as locally transmitted infections in Lake Sebu continued to increase, and with its community hospital closing down temporarily due to the situation.
Tamayo said the holding of such gatherings is prohibited since the minimum health protocols and safe physical distancing measures are not usually observed properly.
“Government officials and employees are not exempt from these regulations and should follow them strictly to set an example to the public,” he said in his weekly radio program “Ang Gobernador kag ang Katawhan (the governor and the people).”
He said erring officials could face sanctions from the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
As of Sunday night, the active Covid-19 cases in the province dropped to 1,184 after only recording two new infections and 100 recoveries.
The confirmed cases in the area since March last year already reached a total of 7,357, the highest in Region 12 (Soccsksargen), with 182 related deaths and 5,991 recoveries.
The governor said residents should not be complacent with the huge drop in active cases in the past several days after previously peaking at over 1,600.
He clarified that the decrease was not due to the improving Covid-19 situation but the lack of testing since last week after the local government’s co-managed laboratory ran out of test cartridges.
The province has been sending swab samples to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City pending the arrival of the requested cartridges from the Department of Health, he said.
Due to the absence of test kits and cartridges, Tamayo said the disease surveillance activities have been limited and they could not properly determine the movement of the virus in local communities.
“We don’t really know the real score on the ground right now when it comes to Covid-19 due to the limited testing so it is important for everyone to remain vigilant and continually follow the health protocols,” he said. (PNA)