When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, the battle is truly local – and thus local government units (LGUs) are in the direct line of fire.
Evidence of this is a study recently released by the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom), which showed high-population density villages have the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
PopCom said 1,272 villages averaged 137 cases monthly from September 2020 to April 15, 2021.
They were classified by PopCom as high-population density (HD) with population ranging from 201 to 999 per hectare. It is above the average of 200 persons per hectare.
Villages with lower caseloads had populations below 200 per hectare and were labeled as low-population density (LD) and medium-population density (MD) communities.
The study covered 35,149 barangays, or 83 percent of all villages nationwide.
Over the same period in 20,889 barangays, PopCom noted that 15,252 remained COVID-free.
Barangay 73 in Caloocan City, with a population of 19,506 inside a hectare, has the highest density among communities nationwide.
PopCom chief Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III said that while there were more deaths in LD and MD villages, this is diluted by the number of barangays with deaths.
In Luzon outside the National Capital Region bubble (Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite, and Rizal), 1,111 LDs produced 1,645 deaths (1.48 deaths per barangay) while 72 HDs produced 115 deaths for an average of 1.59.
The average is higher for HDs but remarkably close to data from LD and MD communities.
“We surmise that HD barangays are usually in urban areas where people have access to hospitals, particularly higher-level hospitals. Those living in LD barangays are usually in rural areas with large distances to travel before you get to hospitals and there are fewer health workers in LDs,” Perez explained.
Based on the data of the Department of Health (DOH) which covered more than 60 percent of barangay tallies on deaths due to the virus, LD and MD communities nationwide had 3,348 and 6,186 casualties, respectively, or an average of 1.84 casualties.
Inside HDs, there were 1,941 who succumbed, or 3.38 casualties — an average almost twice as much in less-densely populated barangays.
Perez said the study is “merely descriptive” and cannot explain a correlation of highly populated areas and areas with high COVID-19 cases.
However, he underscored it will offer insights to the DOH and local government units as basis for vaccination rollouts.