Antique fights Covid-19

LOWEST NO. OF COVID PATIENTS. Holiday shoppers strictly observe social distancing and log in for contact tracing before entering a mall in Antique in this undated photo. The Department of Health said because of the strict observance of the minimum health protocols against Covid-19, the province has the lowest number of infections in Western Visayas from April to December last year. (PNA photo by Annabel Consuelo J. Petinglay)

SAN JOSE DE BUENAVISTA, Antique – Antique province’s biggest victory in 2020 was having the lowest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in Western Visayas for nine months due to its strict implementation of safety policies and guidelines.

“Antique is doing good in terms of its fight (against) the pandemic,” Department of Health (DOH) provincial health team leader, Dr. Rene Feman Autajay, said in an interview on Thursday.

Autajay said with the help of the 10 Covid-19 disease surveillance officers deployed by the DOH last September, contact tracing is immediately conducted.

Based on data provided by the Integrated Provincial Health Office, as of December 30, the province only had five new confirmed Covid-19 cases, 83 recoveries, and one death.

Since July 1, Antique has remained under the modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).

He credited the low incidence of the disease to the provincial inter-agency task force addressing Covid-19, Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao, and the League of Municipalities in the Philippines – Antique Chapter, headed by Libertad Mayor Mary Jean Te, for requiring the strict 14-day quarantine of returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), locally stranded individuals (LSIs), and those who had been identified through contact tracing.

“The barangay officials also initiated to convert their barangay halls and day-care centers into quarantine areas for the ROFs and LSIs,” Autajay said.

He noted that although some Antiqueños remain complacent about the health safety protocols, most residents observe safe physical distancing, hand washing, and the wearing of face shields and masks, especially when they enter the malls or other public establishments.

Para-teachers hired

Meanwhile, the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Antique Superintendent Felisa B. Beriong said despite the pandemic, the education of the learners was uninterrupted with the opening of classes on October 5.

“There is still a semblance of learning despite the pandemic,” Beriong said, adding that the absence of “face-to-face” classes did not prevent students from becoming busy with their lessons due to the presence of various learning modalities, such as modules and radio- and television-based learning.

DepEd-Antique has enrolled 71,760 Kinder to Grade 6 pupils and 61,011 secondary level students in 534 public schools.

It was also only in Antique that, through the initiative of lone district Rep. Loren Legarda and the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Government Internship Program, DepEd was able to hire 700 para-teachers from September 1 to December 15, with each receiving a daily wage of PHP395.

The para-teachers were tapped to help learners, especially those whose parents cannot guide them, as they worked on their modules. They carried out a house-to-house tutorial with the learners in the communities where they also reside.

“The para-teachers were assigned (to) the 590 barangays of Antique and the DepEd district offices,” DOLE-Antique Director Melisa Navarra said in a previous interview.

Beriong said she would discuss with Navarra the possible rehiring of para-teachers for next year, considering their big help to the students.

Focus on farming

Despite the pandemic, the province’s agriculture sector ranked number seven nationwide in terms of areas planted with palay during the third quarter of 2020.

“Covid-19 drove the people to focus on farming,” provincial agriculture officer Nicolasito Calawag said in an interview.

In 2019, Antique only ranked number 11 nationwide with 25,715 hectares planted with palay.

Based on Philippine Statistics Authority data, Antique, during the third quarter of the year, was able to harvest 114,918 metric tons of palay that made the province occupy the number 12 slot nationwide in the past year. (PNA)

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