Rama to tighten border control, while Gwen opens Cebu to all OFWs, ROFs

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THE Cebu City Government will tighten the policy for individuals entering Cebu City from areas under Alert Level 3 due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.

Rama made the announcement on the same day that Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia lifted the ban on the entry of non-Cebuano returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) and overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Cebu starting Tuesday, Jan. 4.

Rama said he had met with barangay officials, the Cebu City Police Office, department heads and Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of the Visayas Vaccination Operations Center, on the policy tightening.

“Now comes this Omicron variant that has already disturbed the National Capital Region (NCR) and some parts of our country. Though with mitigating measures in place, our ports are open; thus, chances are this variant might find its way to our city,” Rama said.

“We are being guided by Dr. Loreche, and I am in full agreement that border control is very important, especially its containment, so we are going towards formulation of a very important executive order (EO). ... For Alert Level 3, definitely, we have to be very strict.”

On Dec. 31, 2021, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) escalated the alert level classification of the NCR to Alert Level 3 for Jan. 3-15, 2022, citing the need to take proactive measures against Omicron, designated as a variant of concern.

Rama said the City Government would coordinate with the local governments of Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City and the Province of Cebu so there would be a uniform policy for the whole island of Cebu.

Rama said his EO would have for its foundation his Oplan Puyo, first implemented last August, that ordered residents to stay home, except for securing essential goods and services, and for work.

The mayor is considering requiring everyone entering Cebu City from areas under Alert Level 3 to take an RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test to ensure that they do not bring the Omicron variant to the city.

The mayor urged residents to continue getting their Covid-19 jabs so that they will not develop a serious case of the disease in case of a breakthrough infection.

On Monday, Governor Garcia issued Memorandum 1-2022 informing GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority and all airline operators of the expiration of her EO 49, series of 2021 that had limited the entry into Cebu of ROFs and OFWs to Cebuanos from Dec. 23, 2021 to Jan. 3, 2022.

Garcia had issued EO 49 last Dec. 20, in light of the blackout and fuel and water shortages prevailing in Cebu after Typhoon Odette (Rai) hit the province last Dec. 16, as well as the impending closure of some quarantine hotels to repair typhoon damage.

Under Memorandum 1-2022, Garcia said all ROFs and OFWs shall now be allowed entry into the Province of Cebu starting Jan. 4, 2022, “provided, they undergo a five-day quarantine period as prescribed by applicable IATF-MEID resolutions.”

New cases

The Department of Health (DOH) recorded anew more than 4,000 new cases of Covid-19 in the country, bringing the country’s total to 2,855,819 as of 4 p.m. Monday.

In its Monday case bulletin, the DOH said 4,084 additional infections were logged, raising the total active cases to 24,992, of which 795 were asymptomatic, 19,252 mild, 3,051 moderate, 1,563 severe and 331 critical.

The positivity rate stood at 20.7 percent, based on the 18,587 samples tested last Jan. 1.

The health department said two laboratories were not operational, while 21 laboratories were not able to submit their output last Jan. 1. These labs contributed on average 5.1 percent of all samples tested and 5.2 percent of individuals who tested positive for the virus in the last 14 days.

The death toll rose to 51,586 with 16 new mortalities reported by the DOH.

DOH spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum Monday that both the highly transmissible Delta and Omicron variants of Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, are already circulating in the country.

Vergeire said that as of Dec. 31, 2021, 42.48 percent of the samples tested yielded positive for Delta, while 0.07 percent were positive for Omicron.

She said when Omicron was first detected in the country, only two of the 48 samples sequenced (4.17 percent) tested positive for the variant, but recently, 10 of 48 samples (28.83 percent) have turned out positive for it.

“Based on observation, our assumption is it’s already in the community because we have seen the sudden increase in the number of cases,” Vergeire told reporters.

The Philippines currently has three local Omicron variant cases and 11 imported cases, of which nine were returning Filipinos and two were foreign nationals.

Vergeire said all cases were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.

Most had already finished their minimum 10-day isolation period. Two cases of the Omicron variant, however, remain active, added Vergeire.

She reminded the public, especially those who have symptoms of Covid-19, to immediately isolate themselves to prevent the spread of the virus.

She said close contacts of confirmed and suspected cases must go on quarantine for seven days if they are vaccinated and 14 days if they are unvaccinated. (PAC, CTL, LMY / SunStar Philippines)

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