THE return of locally stranded individuals (LSIs) is causing the spike in coronavirus infections in Negros Occidental, according to Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

"During these past weeks, there has been an increase in cases in Negros Occidental, and they were attributing this to LSIs," Vergeire said in a virtual briefing Friday, August 28, 2020.

"When we checked the data, we verified that it is really those who came home that caused the increase in cases," she added.

As of August 26, the Negros Occidental Provincial Government reported that 471 of the 990 total cases in the province involved LSIs.

For three straight days from August 25 to 27, Negros Occidental was among the provinces with the highest number of new infections.

The DOH reported 237 new cases in Negros Occidental on Tuesday, 304 on Wednesday, and 140 on Thursday.

Read: Coronavirus cases accelerate in Negros Occidental

Bacolod City, the provincial capital, is under lockdown to give way to mass testing for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Four other local government units (LGUs) in Negros Occidental - Murcia town and the cities of Talisay, Silay and Bago - will also be placed on lockdown on August 30 to 31.

Officials have targeted to test 5,000 people in Bacolod, which is less than one percent of the city’s population, and another 5,000 in the four LGUs, around one percent of their combined population.

Vergeire said "integrated and comprehensive" measures must be implemented to counter the surge in cases

One strategy, she said, would be the establishment of a local One Hospital Command Center for Negros Occidental.

"We are already working for a command system for hospitals in Bacolod so we can somehow decongest hospitals. We are also helping them in their temporary treatment and monitoring facilities to decongest their hospitals," said Vergeire. (With HDT/SunStar Philippines)