Baguio back as 'high-risk area'

BAGUIO has been marked as a "high-risk area" anew by an independent research group due to a continued surge in coronavirus infections.

Octa Research marked the city's return to the high-risk circle with Mankayan, in Benguet, as the only areas in Luzon in the cluster, Makati for the National Capital Region, and Davao City for the Mindanao island cluster.

The Octa team said Baguio logged 16 cases a day from November 24 to 30 and 32 cases a day from December 1 to 7 with an attack rate of 6.3 percent and a hospital occupancy of 68 percent.

"We list high-risk LGUs based on high cases per day, high positivity rate, high attack rate, and/or high hospital occupancy. We are concerned that these LGUs may experience high hospital burden in the coming weeks that may stress their health care systems and overwhelm their medical front-liners. With this increased mobility, we should expect a gradual rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in Metro Manila. This does not have to be a cause of concern as long as the clusters of cases are contained by our LGU contact tracing teams," the Octa team said.

As of December 8, Baguio has 301 active Covid-19 cases with 45 deaths and 2,921 recoveries, bringing the total to 3,267.

The city has also opened tourism activities and reached the 10,000 mark for arrivals last month in an attempt to revive the economy.

Night market activities and Yuletide celebration have likewise been planned.

However, surges in crowds in the failed attempt to open the night market weeks ago resulted in its closure as systems for crowd control are being calibrated.

In the latest study, Benguet is also among provinces of concern because of the significant number of cases, together with areas like Davao del Sur, Isabela, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Leyte and Bataan.

"At the national level that data shows we had a decrease in cases, but the cases are more spread out throughout the country. The situation remains tenuous at the local level, and requires more vigilant monitoring. Given the large differences in access to health care facilities from region to region, it is important to build up testing capacities/isolation areas in Mindanao and Visayas, where increase in Covid-19 cases may be more difficult to manage and control," the group said.

The team said based on the available data, they believe the increases in new cases are largely cases of community transmission exacerbated by the significant rise in mobility within and among provinces due to due to poor or lax border controls, sparse testing, and leaky quarantines as a result of the opening-up and the expansion of economic activity all around the country over the last few months.

Furthermore, the deteriorating compliance with the minimum health standard by some citizens due to pandemic fatigue and the failure of LGUs to monitor and enforce GCQ regulations have also contributed to spikes, especially in metropolitan areas, it added.

"In some places, the situation is further exacerbated by the continuing post-typhoon effects. A rise in new cases is anticipated in the next few weeks because of the pressures exerted by the aforementioned factors coupled with the holiday season rush. This is especially likely in urban centers like the NCR. This is expected based on the experience of countries such as the US and Canada that have recently celebrated Thanksgiving. In both cases, the holiday celebrations led to significant spikes in Covid-19 cases. We can learn from their experience, and we can do better at mitigating a surge," added Octa.

The Octa team also tagged La Trinidad (Benguet) as part of the list of "local government units of concern" with other areas in Luzon like Tugegarao (Cagayan), San Pablo (Laguna) and Balanga (Bataan), and Quezon City, Pateros and Muntinlupa (NCR).

"The following LGUs are classified as moderate risk areas but they are still areas of concern because they all experienced an increase in the number of new cases for the period from December 1 to 7. Moreover, these LGUs are also characterized as having either attack rates of above five percent or that their hospital utilization is already above 50 percent. The following LGUs need to be monitored," the team said.


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