DAYS before easing border restrictions to accommodate Luzon tourists, a group of experts cautioned the city amid the rise of Covid -19 infections.
Based on the Octa research for Covid-19 monitoring report on October 20, Baguio ranked second in the list due to an increased average of new cases recorded per day and critical care occupancy reaching 69 percent and above.
The Summer Capital, which is set to ease border restrictions for tourists on October 22 in a bid to boost the slump in the economy, recorded an attack rate of 11.1 percent while its hospital capacity is at 69 percent.
“Attention is needed in Baguio City, this local government unit needs to further intensify its efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation to reverse the increase of transmissions at the community level. Moreover, it needs to implement more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns with stricter border controls to suppress further viral transmissions,” the Octa research team underscored.
Octa researcher, Ranjit Rye, MPA, assistant professor of the Department of Political Science - University of the Philippines Diliman who provided Sun.Star Baguio the study cautioned Baguio and other identified high-risk areas and suggested the implementation of more aggressive and effective localized lockdowns with stricter border controls to suppress further viral transmissions.
“Given the state of Covid-19 in the NCR and other cities and municipalities around the country, we urge the local government units (LGUs) especially in the high-risk areas identified to further intensify their efforts at testing, tracing, and isolation to reverse the increase of transmissions at the community level,” Rye said.
Benguet Province was also included in the list of provinces with the highest number of new cases per day based on the period of October 12 to 18, ranking 12th with 56 cases from Oct 12 to 18 and 48 cases from October 5 to 11 based on DOH case reports.
The Octa study gave its analysis for Luzon saying the cities in Luzon (outside NCR and Calabarzon) with the highest number of new cases are: Baguio City, Olongapo (Zambales), Ilagan (Isabela), Dagupan (Pangasinan), San Jose Del Monte (Bulacan).
The high-risk areas (high caseload and high attack rate) are Baguio City, Olongapo (Zambales), Ilagan (Isabela). The positivity rate in Central Luzon is seven percent. In Region I, it is one percent. In Region II, it is 10 percent. In Benguet, it is at 8 percent. Baguio City is above the 70 percent critical level in hospital occupancy.
Octa researchers said LGU’s of concern classified as high risk is based on high number of cases per day, a high attack rate, and or a high hospital occupancy, with Baguio averaging 39 cases a day (average daily new cases from Oct 11 to 17 based on DOH case reports. Daily attack rate per 1000 is based on the 2 week period from Oct 4 to 17.)
“The concern is that these LGUs identified as high-risk may experience an overwhelming of their health care systems and their medical front-liners in the coming weeks,” Rye said with Baguio ranking second in Benguet with 39 cases in a day 10 percent attack rate and hospital occupancy of 69 percent.
“We reiterate the need for the national and the local governments to strictly monitor and enforce compliance with minimum health standards such as physical distancing, the wearing of face mask and face shields and proper hygiene to reverse the increase in transmissions at the community level, we continue to urge the national government to carefully study and to monitor together with our experts from the health sector, the impact/implication of the resumption/expansion of certain socio-economic activities to ensure that these will not contribute to further transmission of the virus.”
The team asked the private sector to intensify their efforts to complement the initiatives of the government in ensuring safety in workplaces, the provision of adequate testing as needed, the ensuring of compliance with minimum health standards in the workplace, and implementation of effective contact tracing in the workplace.
The cooperation of the business establishments will significantly reduce the risk of workplace transmission while jump-starting economic recovery.
The Octa team is an independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni. This independent research team also includes contributors from the University of Santo Tomas and Providence College, USA.
The Octa team said findings and recommendations in the report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, Providence College, or any of its units.
Local health experts meanwhile questioned the study placing the city as part of high-risk areas in the country.
Doctors Rowena Galpo and Donnabel Tubera - Panes said the city was not consulted or given an official copy of the research.
Galpo said the city, since September 1, is averaging 319 tests a day and now has 52, 891 tests done so far.
For those infected, depending on symptoms and severity either home isolation, hospital confinement, or isolation facility stays are recommended after evaluation and inspections.
As of Wednesday, there are 323 isolation beds available and 231 currently in – use by patients.
There are also three private isolation facilities available at Parkway center, T. Alonzo, and Gabriela Silang.
Barangay isolation areas are also being identified at the moment with over a dozen up for approval after evaluation and further study.