CAR back to stricter quarantine; still GCQ for Metro, 6 other areas
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Friday said the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) would revert to the stricter general community quarantine (GCQ) next month, following fresh cases of COVID-19 infection, including its more contagious B.1.1.7, or United Kingdom variant.
Before the new cases, the region was already under the more relaxed modified general community quarantine (MGCQ). For the entire month of February, it will be under GCQ, together with Metro Manila, Tacloban City, Davao City, Iligan City and the provinces of Batangas, Davao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.
The rest of the country will be under MGCQ, said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque.
The Cordillera region—which is made up of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, and Baguio City—had been anticipating the stricter quarantine after 12 people in the municipality of Bontoc, capital of Mountain Province, contracted the UK variant of the coronavirus this month.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday said 45 other people in Bontoc have tested positive for COVID-19. It was not immediately known if they contracted the new variant.
The DOH said they were exposed to a UK migrant who returned home to the capital town of Mountain Province last December.
Contact tracing was also extended to the neighboring towns of Sagada, Sabangan and Bauko, after residents there were reported to have attended various gatherings in Bontoc that month.
Meanwhile, the DOH has declared as a “closed” case the Filipino domestic worker from Cagayan province who tested positive for the UK variant when she arrived in Hong Kong in December.
At a press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “We had all her close contacts who tested positive of the virus genome sequenced. All of them tested negative for the UK variant.”
But Vergeire also pointed out that the DOH had no way to test other passengers on the worker’s flight to Hong Kong.
“We can’t say for sure if she got it here or in Hong Kong, since there was no further investigation done there,” she said.
Vergeire assured the public that, as a safeguard, “we quarantined all close contacts completely for 14 days. They were monitored properly and in case any of them had the variant, we quarantined them and they have recovered.”
Also on Friday, the DOH recorded 1,849 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total caseload to 521,413.
Active cases nationwide totaled 35,048, of which 85 percent are mild cases, 9.5 percent are asymptomatic, 2.9 percent are in critical condition, 2.2 percent have severe symptoms and 0.46 percent are moderate cases.
The DOH also reported 177 new recoveries, bringing the total number of recovered patients to 475,765.
However, 48 more individuals have died, bringing the death toll to 10,600.
Two cases previously cited as recoveries were also reclassified to deaths after final validation, the DOH said.
The agency also removed the data showing which cities had the highest number of new infections for the day, saying this was sometimes misinterpreted.
“The previous list of areas are based on total new cases reported that day, which is sometimes misinterpreted as total new or active cases,” Vergeire said.
She clarified that previous reports on the list of areas and their corresponding new cases aren’t always in real time since “operational issues are inevitably experienced causing reporting delays to impact the total number indicated in the daily bulletin.”
Vergeire made the clarification a day after Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong disputed the new case count for his city on Jan. 27, when the DOH reported 121 new cases.
Magalong said ground data showed only 18 new cases for that day.
In a statement, the DOH said the numbers in the Jan. 27 daily case bulletin for Baguio are “correct.”
“The DOH clarifies that the number of cases reflected in the daily case bulletin are numbers submitted to the DOH Epidemiology Bureau (EB) two days prior, and not on the day itself. This means that the number of cases in the Jan. 27 case bulletin are from reports submitted last Jan. 25,” the department said.
The DOH added that the number of cases submitted to the EB “undergo rigorous validation” before they are published. —WITH REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND VINCENT CABREZA
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