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RETURN OF RESIDENTS AMONG POSSIBLE FACTORS, SAYS DOH

9 Mindanao provinces ‘emerging virus hot spots’

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) has identified nine provinces in Mindanao as “emerging hot spots” after these reported an increase in COVID-19 cases in the last few days.

The provinces are Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental in Northern Mindanao; Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental in Davao region; South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in Soccsksargen; and Maguindanao in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

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Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said these provinces were labeled emerging hot spots because cases were popping up in these areas after the DOH had not seen any case for weeks or they had not reported any at all since local transmission of the virus was recorded in March.

Vergeire said that while there were a number of factors that might have contributed to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the provinces, the health department was “not discounting the possibility” that this may have been driven by local returnees.

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Earlier, the DOH classified the cities of Cebu and Ormoc, and the provinces of Cebu, Southern Leyte, Leyte and Samar in the Visayas as emerging hot spots due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

37,514 cases

As of Tuesday, the DOH recorded an additional 1,080 cases, pushing the national tally to 37,514.

Of the new cases, 858 tested positive in the last three days. Central Visayas had the biggest number of such cases at 430, followed by Metro Manila with 158.

The remainder of the new cases, or 222, were those who tested positive four days ago or earlier. Metro Manila topped this list with 45, followed by Central Visayas with 38.

There are now a total of 10, 233 patients who have recovered from COVID-19, with the recovery of 277 more patients. Death toll at 1,266

The death toll, however, increased to 1,266 as 11 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.

Of the newly reported deaths, nine died in June.

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In Bukidnon, three of its seven cases tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days. Similarly, half of Lanao del Norte’s eight cases and six of Misamis Occidental’s 17 cases all tested positive in the last two weeks.

Of the total 23 positive cases in Davao del Norte, eight were recorded in the last two weeks. In Davao del Sur it was four out of the total 10 and three out of seven in Davao Oriental.

Of the combined 19 cases in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, four tested positive in the last two weeks. In Maguindanao, two of its 11 total cases tested positive on June 14. Its last reported case was on May 28.

Metro Manila remains epicenter

Vergeire clarified reports that even as Cebu City was seeing a surge in cases in the last few days, Metro Manila remained the epicenter of the outbreak.

“In NCR, (National Capital Region) even if the number of cases is rising in Cebu, we can see a continuous [increase in] numbers,’’ she said.

Earlier, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who is not an infectious disease or a public health expert, claimed that Cebu City was the new epicenter.

No need to revert to GCQ

The Philippine representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) sees no need for Metro Manila to revert to stricter quarantine rules after being placed on general community quarantine (GCQ) last month.

At a briefing, WHO Philippine representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the rules of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF)allowed for the imposition of localized lockdowns on areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

But he also said the WHO had the impression that people coming out of lockdown tended to forget that they still needed to maintain physical distancing and practice proper hygiene.

He also said there had been a worrying increase of COVID-19 cases involving a younger population — those 20 to 40 years old. This would eventually spill over to elderly and vulnerable groups, which could lead to an increase in the mortality rate, he added.

Relaxing quarantine measures does not mean the pandemic is over, he said.

Reviving economy

To revive the economy, the government wants stricter enforcement of health protocols, localized quarantine and other measures

The IATF has supported recommendations “to further open up the economy” by revisiting strategies that ensure a balance between public health and the economy.

In IATF Resolution No. 50, the body supported proposals to consult local governments in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon on “moving up of the economy” toward the “easing up of community quarantine status.”

The government’s economic team also recommended “a more localized quarantine at the municipal or barangay levels” once evidence of steady progress in meeting the target of lower positivity rates for COVID-19 is observed.

The IATF noted that “further amendments are required to further streamline the government’s response to the pandemic” due to changes in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lockdowns imposed since March 17 have shuttered many businesses and left thousands without jobs, causing the gross domestic product to contract by 0.2 percent in the first quarter.

Expand testing

In the same resolution, the IATF supported the proposal to expand testing to boost employees’ confidence in returning to work and revive consumption demand.

It sought to accelerate the daily testing capacity to achieve a positivity rate of 3 percent this July. The current positivity rate for COVID-19 is 6.2 percent.

The IATF supported the recommendation to “optimize the use of sufficient and safe public transportation to facilitate opening up of the economy.”

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

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