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Davao City’s business permit chief resigns over derby event that spread COVID-19

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THE HEAD of Davao City’s Business Permit and Licensing Division has resigned after being held responsible for failure to revoke the permit of a series of cockfighting events where local transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been traced.

As of April 5, Davao had the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among major cities outside the capital with 65. Of the total, 11 have died while 17 have recovered.

Department of Health-Davao Region officials reported that as of April 2, at least 12 of the positive patients have been traced to have contracted the disease from the event.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, in a statement Monday, said a probe on the issue concluded that the local government’s top officer on permits “could have stopped the conduct of the derby and further prevented the situation from escalating, but did not vigorously act on it.”

The permit for the cockfights — held March 7, 10, and 12 — was issued March 3.

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On March 8, the city government issued its first set of guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, which did not specifically ban private gatherings but encouraged the postponement of such events.

“It was a judgment call that was never made,” the mayor said.

Ms. Carpio did not name the official, but the the city’s official Website indicates lawyer Marissa M. Torentera as officer-in-charge of the licensing division.

“This person already tendered resignation effective April 4, 2020. This serves as a reminder for all officials in the City Government to always put forward the general welfare of the residents of the city,” Ms. Carpio said.

The mayor has declared the city under lockdown with strict quarantine measures that will be in effect until April 19.

Health officials said a conservative estimate of the number that attended the three-day event is 1,200, but they are still confirming reports that there could have been as many as 3,200.

Cleo Fe S. Tabada, head of the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, said the bigger concern is the number of “family members, friends or companions at work” who were exposed to the COVID-19 positive patients who were at the derby.

“If you look at the whole picture… the infection rate would be really high,” Ms. Tabada said in a briefing last week.

Health Assistant Regional Director Lenny Joy J. Rivera said they have already asked the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to assist in tracing those who attended the event. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

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