Fear, confusion in Pampanga town as it records first coronavirus case
PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Fear and confusion gripped residents of a town here after their municipal government announced its first novel coronavirus case in the town late Thursday night, April 16.
The Magalang municipal government described the patient as a 31-year-old who was a resident of Barangay San Francisco, confirmed at the Jose B Lingad Regional Memorial Hospital (JBLMRH) in San Fernando City, and "will not be discharged until her repeat test becomes negative."
"COVID-19 M1 is a frontliner in another city,” the municipal government said in a Facebook post.
In a video message on Friday, April 17, Magalang Mayor Romy Pecson said the coronavirus patient was staying in a hotel being rented by the provincial government of Pampanga to accommodate JBLMRH health workers and that she went home to Magalang on April 4 to be with her family and returned to the San Fernando City the next day.
Pecson said the patient’s family was placed under 14-day home quarantine and that contract tracing was already initiated by the municipal health office.
Pecson said on Thursday that he ordered the Magalang police “to put up additional PNP personnel" in the patient's barangay.
The announcement drew strong reactions from Pampanga residents, some of whom wanted a total lockdown imposed on the coronavirus patient's village.
“Mayor, we think what our town needs is total lockdown. If necessary, policemen should be on patrol 24/7 and arrest everyone who are not inside their houses without valid reasons. There are a lot of hardheaded people everywhere,” another resident said in the vernacular in the Facebook thread of the municipal government's announcement.
One commenter suggested that people from Barangay San Francisco should not be allowed entry to the market, drewing flak from village members and other netizens. “What you want is gravely unfair and inhumane. Will you feed our family if you forbid us to buy our own food?” one replied.
Some even demanded that health workers should not be allowed to go home during the pandemic.
“Sorry to say. Pero health workers should have quarters na sa hospital area. Wala uwian. Since they are at high risk,” one commented. (Sorry to say, but health workers should have quarters in the hospital area. They should not return home, since they are high-risk.)
“True po. Puro mga nurse ang may case ngayon sa iba't ibang lugar dapat may isang bahay talaga silang uuwian,” another replied. (That's true. With the nurses having cases of the disease now in various places, there should be housing for them set up.)
On Friday, April 17, FCC Supermarket, one of the major supermarkets in Magalang, refused entry to residents of Barangay San Francisco.
FCC Supermarket even claimed on its Facebook page that refusing to accommodate San Francisco residents was in compliance with the order of the Magalang municipal government and the municipal police.
Late afternoon on Friday, the Magalang municipal government posted a statement in its Facebook page, saying the information received by FCC Supermarket was false news and that the establishment violated the town's anti-discrimination ordinance.
“Municipality of Magalang did not issue any memorandum or order to not allow residents of Brgy. San Francisco to enter FCC Supermarket today, April 17, 2020. The said order is a direct violation of the Enhanced Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Magalang. Mayor Romy Pecson earlier announced that only posts from the Facebook page of Municipality of Magalang are considered ‘official.' Everyone is hereby enjoined to follow the IATF resolution and the pronouncement of the Mayor,” the local government said.
The supermarket’s management made a public apology for the blunder on the same day.
“To our valued customers, we would like to inform our Cabalens who are living in Barangay San Francisco, Magalang, Pampanga, that the management of FCC Supermarket has not ordered our blue guards to disallow anyone to enter the establishment. We apologize for any discrimination suffered by any of our cabalen. Be assured that FCC Supermarket being a true blooded Magaleño, will be here to serve you at all times,” it said on its Facebook page.
“In behalf of my team who is in charge of answering the queries of our Facebook Page, I Samuel Chan, sincerely apologize for the way my staff had answered the question. He had based his opinion on a hearsay basis without investigation. To our valued customers, I would like to clarify that the Municipality of Magalang had not instructed us to disallow any San Francisco resident to enter our establishment. Again, I apologize for the statement that my staff had given,” the management said in another post.
On April 9, the Magalang municipal council and Mayor Romulo Pecson passed and approved Ordinance no. 13, series 2020 known as the “Enhanced Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Magalang, Pampanga.
The local law prohibits persons or juridical entities from committing any act of discrimination against persons under monitoring, being investigated or have been infected with infectious disease, their families, health workers, and other front liners.
The ordinance imposes P2,500 fine or up to 6-month imprisonment to violators.
'Frontliners are heroes'
Pecson thanked all frontliners for devoting themselves to save lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Suzette Yalung, Magalang municipal health officer, expressed disappointment over the netizens’ reaction to the heath worker who got the virus.
“It is sad that when we frontliners started working to protect the people of our town, many posted ‘Salute to our frontliners our heroes!’ But now that one of our fellow health front liners contracted the disease, she and her family are being harassed," she said in a Facebook post reposted by the municipal government.
"Are we not supposed to pray for her fast recovery as a gesture of gratitude since she was one of those who took care of our fellow Kapampangan with COVID-19? She got the disease because she continued to serve despite the risk," Yalung added.
She personally saluted and thanked the health worker for serving the people of Pampanga.
The provincial government of Pampanga recorded 37 cases, including those in Angeles City, as of April 15.
The Department of Health’s NCOV tracker website shows 53 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pampanga as of 4:00 pm on April 16.
The Philippines has 5,878 coronavirus cases, with 387 deaths and 487 recoveries as of Friday, April 17. – Rappler.com