DOH 7 to propose border control if it confirms Omicron cases

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THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 will not recommend another lockdown in Cebu even if there would be confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 and even if it is proven to have caused the spike in Covid cases in Cebu.

What it would recommend, Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said, is border control, where travelers entering Cebu would again be required to present a negative Covid test result.

For now, Loreche is attributing the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in three cities and in Cebu Province to the holiday activities and the aftermath of Typhoon Odette.

Loreche, chief pathologist of DOH 7, and Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, the deputy chief implementer of the city’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), said the typhoon may have played a role in the increase in the number of cases.

Based on the DOH 7 case bulletin as of January 7, 2022, Cebu City recorded 59 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of active cases to 264.

Cebu Province logged 20 new cases with a total of 243 active cases while Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City had 18 and 13 new cases, respectively, with 50 and 33 active cases.

Based on the report of Garganera, Cebu City reported 201 active cases in just 10 days, 64 of which was recorded on January 8.

Loreche said there can be two reasons for the increase, one of which is the holiday surge combined with the devastation of Typhoon Odette, and the possible presence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in Cebu.

She said they cannot confirm yet if the surge was due to Omicron since they have yet to receive the results for the 80 samples they sent to the Philippine Genome Center.

She said they expect to get the results of the samples taken from the communities, including the returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in two to three weeks yet since the samples were sent end of December 2021.

While they wait for the results, she urged the people to be more conscious and get themselves vaccinated, and comply with the public health standards such as wearing of face masks.

“We’re not saying that we should not be afraid of Omicron because based on what we know about it, in other countries, this is the most prominent variant of concern. Now the number of cases is increasing rapidly,” Loreche added.

Once the DOH confirms the presence of the Omicron variant in Cebu, Loreche said they will recommend border control, requiring those who would like to enter the island to have a negative RT-PCR or Anti-gen results prior to departure from their home provinces or cities.

“Our recommendation would be really to require a negative test result before entering Cebu. But that’s just a recommendation. It would be up to our leaders whether or not they would implement it,” she said.

Loreche clarified that DOH will definitely not recommend another lockdown.

Two Omicron cases

Earlier, a returning overseas Filipino and an overseas Filipino worker whose point of entry was the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) were confirmed to be positive of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Loreche said the OFW, a native of Iloilo City, arrived at the MCIA from Kenya on December 10, 2021 while the ROF, who hails from Zamboanga City, came from the Middle East and arrived in Cebu last December 15.

She said the case cannot be considered as a confirmed case in Cebu, citing that both the OFW and the ROF are from other regions.

She explained that the OFW was swabbed twice and tested negative prior to being sent home, and only tested positive of the variant in Iloilo.

The ROF on the other hand, tested positive of the virus following the swab test on the fifth day after arrival and tested positive after the genome sequencing. But Loreche clarified that the patient completed the 14-day quarantine before being sent home.

Garganera, for his part, attributed the rise of cases to the aftermath of the typhoon. He said the holiday surge was only secondary, noting that the typhoon hit Cebu at the start of the Misa de Gallo.

He noted that due to the typhoon, people flocked to the evacuation centers since there were no water and power supply in their homes.

The councilor said the long queue at the gasoline stations and automated teller machines could have contributed to the rise as well.

But what aggravated the situation, Garganera said, were the numerous fire incidents in the city after the typhoon, which forced even more families to stay in evacuation centers after losing their homes.

“So the situation worsened and most often, the people were not wearing face masks,” he lamented.

The Philippines on Saturday, January 8, 2022, set a new record-high in Covid-19 cases, with more than 26,400 new infections reported by the DOH.

Based on the Saturday case bulletin, the DOH said 26,458 new Covid-19 cases were recorded, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,936,875.

The country’s previous highest single-day record of infections is 26,303, which was set last September 11, 2021.

The positivity rate in the Philippines stood at 43.7 percent among the 77,004 tested samples on January 6.

The DOH also reported 265 additional deaths, raising the total mortalities to 52,135 or a case fatality rate of 1.78 percent.

The health department also reported 1,656 additional recoveries to bring the total to 2,782,723.

The DOH said the recovery rate stood at 94.8 percent.

Less the deaths and recoveries, the agency recorded 102,017 active Covid-19 cases.

Majority of the active cases, with over 94,000, were mild, followed by more than 3,300 asymptomatic cases. (MKG / HDT / SunStar Philippines)

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