A HEALTH official attributed the surge in Covid-19 cases in Sta. Maria, Davao Occidental on activities that result in mass gatherings, including sabong and gambling activities.Dr. Doreen Lolette Arciaga, incident commander for Covid-19 Response in Sta. Maria, Davao Occidental, said in a virtual presser on Monday, August 23, 2021, that Sta. Maria had the highest cases of Covid-19 in the province."Based sa cases natin na increasing talaga. From April na zero cases kami, then May up to present, grabe ang pag-increase," Arciaga said during the Department of Health-Davao Region weekly virtual presser.(Based on our data, there is an apparent increase. Back in April, we had zero cases. But from May until present, the increase of cases is severe.)The health official said most patients violated various health protocols based on their contact tracing history."There are unreported gatherings such as online sabong, talpakan... (cockfighting), and rampant din ang sugal na patago (discreet gambling activities are rampant)," she said, adding that most of the online sabungeros converge in one area and watch the event in a secluded spot in Poblacion area due to its stable internet connection. Some events are done discreetly within homes.She said the province, in accordance with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), prohibits sabong and gambling as these draw crowds, which is vulnerable to the Covid-19 transmission.While she did not provide the figure, Arciaga said a majority of their current active cases are participants of the online sabong.As of Monday, the Poblacion area had 114 active cases.The health official said their constituents have a "health-seeking behavior.”"Hindi din po lahat nagdi-disclose kung sino 'yung kasama nila. Nagtuturuan nalang sila later on pag nalaman na positive, kung may symptoms, doon lang sila nagsasabi na galing sila sa talpakan," she said.(Not everyone discloses their close contacts. They will only pass the buck once they tested positive. Once they manifest symptoms, that’s the only time they reveal that they came from cockfighting.)She added that the lifting of the suspension of social gatherings such as weddings and other "intimate" gatherings is also to blame in the increase of cases as the limited number of guests were not observed.Since August 15, Sta. Maria has been under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), where mass gatherings are prohibited, total liquor ban and curfew, which starts from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., are implemented, and only essential transactions are allowed.Arciaga said they are continuously implementing strict hard lockdown in areas wherein there is a clustering of cases. The municipal government had also reimplemented the food and emergency food pass to limit the mobility of their constituents.She added that they are also intensifying their case finding and identification of close contacts.As of August 23, the province had a total of 703 confirmed cases, wherein 325 were active cases and 25 deaths.