O-Plan

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Negros was abuzz with what “O-Plan: One-Time, Big-Time” means after it was announced at the joint press conference of the chief executives of Bacolod and Negros Occidental over the weekend.

Leading the discussion was former Rep. Albee Benitez who first announced this and who I presume, is the author of this plan, which in principle, was concurred in by both Mayor Bing Leonardia and Gov. Bong Lacson.

I said this in an earlier column and will repeat it again. It took an Albee to bring Bing and Bong together to draft a comprehensive program that covers the city and the province in dealing with this pandemic. This is a breath of fresh air and we hope that from hereon, both local governments will be in synch with each other.

The guidelines, though, remain sketchy. But from what I gathered it will cover a 4-day hard lockdown this coming Friday till Monday to test, isolate and treat 10,000 COVID probables. Of course there are people who remain skeptical of this idea but personally, this sounds better than nothing especially with the rising cases of COVID-19 in our locality.

There are many questions, though, which I hope will be answered when the fine details of how this will be implemented will be published.

Off hand, many are asking where the 10,000 figure came from. Who will be tested and how will the test be conducted? Will it be house-to-house or will the identified probables be brought to a place where they will be tested?

I may be wrong but from my understanding, the 10,000 are already identified suspected patients who are in the contact tracing list of those that tested positive. My assumption is based on numerous complaints that there are many close contacts of positive patients who have not been tested because there are not enough testing teams deployed.

Another, which is based on the recommendation from the medical community, is to conduct clustering test in areas that are densely populated and listed as hotspots due to the number of COVID cases.

As explained by Albee, the hard lockdown will start in Bacolod City where they are targeting 5,000 people for testing. The figure is also based on the capacity of our molecular laboratories around town which can accommodate 2,500 tests per day with a 24-hour turn-around for releasing of results.

Some experts say the target is quite high as our labs can only process at most 1,700 tests a day. I guess, this would mean overtime work and shifting of personnel to ensure that the target is met.

Swabbing 2,500 people in one day may entail so many test teams and if we have limited personnel, will this be possible? It is possible yes, if the collaboration between the city and the province will include joint testing operations. Meaning, the city testing team, augmented by the provincial team will work together in the first two days to hit the 5,000 mark in Bacolod. The same joint teams will transfer in the last two days to test people from Murcia, Talisay, Bago and Silay.

I welcomed the idea as we have ran out of ideas in the past few weeks. Our hospitals are getting overwhelmed, our medical community are asking for a timeout, and local government units are requesting for a rest from the repatriation program. To me, this O-Plan is better than nothing and we must support this to arrest the spread of the virus.

Of course this is a grand design and there must be preparation for the aftermath of the 4-day lockdown. Even if only 10 percent of the 10,000 will test positive, do we have enough quarantine facilities to accommodate a thousand people that needs to be isolated from the general public? Do we still have the resources to cover the logistical needs of these 1,000 people?

Albee said that we are trying to play “catch-up” with testing vis-à-vis the rate of transmission in our city and province. There is that probability that the 4-day weekend lockdown may continue in the future. How much cost will this entail and are we getting help from the national government?

From what was discussed, the testing will be covered by the national government that has allocated P35 million. Other expenses will come from the local government units.

Many welcome the plan but the hard lockdown issue has divided the public especially for those who are daily wage earners who are asking if the LGU will cover their basic needs during those days. Some simply think a lockdown is futile if enforcement of minimum health protocols remains weak. While there are others who believe that testing 10,000 is not enough and the lockdown should be prolonged.

We cannot please everybody, especially those who think they are experts on the matter and are likely to ignore protocols. However, what is being asked from us is just 2-days of zero movement in our place to allow the O-Plan to work. Can we, at least, support that?

For all its worth, this O-Plan, has brought the city and the province together. That alone deserves our 100 percent support.

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