The Mayor of Davao City, Sara Duterte-Carpio. REQUEST FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY – Mayor Sara Duterte ordered all city officials to work from home as the city battles a new wave of COVID-19 cases that threaten to overwhelm health facilities.

Executive Order 44, which Duterte signed on September 6, also urged the private sector to do the same to stem the flood of cases in the city whose daily numbers topped 500 over the weekend.

The state-owned Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) and private hospitals treating COVID-19 cases in the city were already full.

The 1,500-bed SPMC, the country’s largest government hospital and the Davao area’s main COVID-19 referral facility, announced over the weekend that its emergency beds were full and that it was considering expanding its emergency department to accommodate more patients said the mayor on Davao City Disaster Radio.

Duterte’s order, which will take effect September 8-26, allows a skeleton force in the city government offices to keep the services going.

Excluded from the order are those working on the government vaccination program, COVID-19 staff, solid waste disposal program staff, other emergency responders, and those carrying out government projects.

Even employees in disaster and social services programs have had to work from home “provided they are on call 24 hours a day and work shifts”.

Duterte said the COVID-19 Task Force Response Cluster health group also recommended that key workers be covered by the home working arrangement as well.

New COVID-19 patients hit 586 cases on Sunday, September 5, bringing the active COVID-19 cases in the city to 6,712.

Health experts have recommended placing the city under ECQ, but the mayor urged them to consider whether the city, which is under general quarantine (GCQ) with heightened restrictions, could fall under such a classification.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases put the city under GCQ with tightened restrictions by the end of the month.

Dr. Raquel Montejo, director of local health support for the regional office of the Ministry of Health, said the agency is reviewing the capacities of hospitals as more rooms of “worrying variants” are needed due to the increasing number of cases and entry.

Delta variant

Of the 58 delta variant cases DOH monitored in the area, 21 were from the city. Health officials said the number could be higher because the results of genome sequencing at the Philippine Genome Center in Diliman, Quezon City, didn’t arrive until three weeks after the samples were shipped.

The city government warned that the homework order should not be an “excuse for delays” by government service.

“All offices must create a system in which the state services are accessible to all needy despite the home work and skeletal workforce regulation,” says the order.

To facilitate customer access, offices need to ensure that they have an online platform with a real-time feedback response system.

Meetings must also be held online, but if a face-to-face meeting is required, only five participants are allowed.

The mayor also revealed plans for the city government to make vaccinations mandatory for all of its employees. She said she would issue an executive order requiring all city administration employees, whether regular, contract, work assignment, volunteer or consultant, to get the full vaccination by December 31, or their contracts would not be renewed.

“We already had enough time to get vaccinated,” she said.

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