Gov't shifts focus on Bacolod amid appeal for COVID-19 assistance

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 26) — The special team tasked to bring down COVID-19 transmission in Cebu City will now share their learnings to Bacolod City.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu will be joined by National Task Force on COVID-19 Chief Carlito Galvez and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino in helping the city respond to the pandemic, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia said Wednesday. Retired Major General Mel Feliciano, the IATF deputy chief implementor in Cebu, will also be part of the contingent, he added.

The mayor said the team will visit Iloilo City on Wednesday before proceeding to Bacolod.

Cimatu was assigned to oversee Cebu City's COVID-19 response in mid-June after it was reverted to the strictest form of lockdown due to the spike in new infections. His stint in Cebu was deemed successful after new cases slowed down and the city eased to general community after a month.

The deployment of the officials was announced a day after Leonardia made an urgent appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to send an augmentation team of healthcare workers to help tame the recent spike in local COVID-19 transmissions in the city.

"As an emergency stop-gap measure, may we beg for an augmentation team of doctors, nurses, and medical technologists from the DOH before our healthcare system completely bogs down... Mr. President, our situation is dire," the local chief executive wrote.

He said Galvez promised to deploy doctors and nurses from Western Visayas and Central Visayas, make arrangements with hotels that can be used as treatment facilities, and send stocks of anti-viral drug remdesivir.

On the same day, local authorities announced that Negros Occidental, including Bacolod will be placed under a four-day lockdown beginning Friday to give way to testing of thousands of residents.

Bacolod will hold testing on Friday and Saturday in 14 centers, while the cities of Bago, Talisay, Silay and town of Murcia in Negros Occidental will have it on Sunday and Monday, Charina Magallanes-Tan, COVID-19 Incident Command Center spokesperson, said.

Around 5,000 Bacolod residents and 5,000 symptomatic Negros Occidental residents and close contacts will be tested, she added.

The city has 735 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 461 of which are active. It also has recorded 17 deaths, as of August 23.