Bulk of Negros Occidental COVID-19 cases returning residents

Marchel Espina
Bulk of Negros Occidental COVID-19 cases returning residents

Negros Occidental catches 120 COVID-19 positive returning residents due to its testing on. arrival policy from January 7 to 9.

Negros Occidental information office

The province still struggles with its vaccination program as nine local governments have fully-vaccinated figures below 50% of their target populations

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – The sudden spike in Negros Occidental COVID-19 cases is “alarming” but also shows that testing on arrival from January 7 to 9 prevented returning residents from spreading the virus to their home towns and cities, the provincial health office (PHO) said on Monday night, January 10.

The PHO said 107 locally stranded individuals (LSIs) from Manila were found positive for COVID-19 by January 9, the last day the province imposed antigen testing on arrivals before new border control rules kicked in on January 10. 

The interim policy caught a total of 120 COVID-19 positive returning residents from January 7 to 9, the PHO added.

Health officials earlier raised concerns about potential outbreaks in southern towns and cities affected by Odette. But PHO head Dr. Ernell Tumimbang said test results from the molecular laboratory of the Teresita Lopez Jalandoni Provincial Hospital showed that 83%  of the new cases were returning residents while local transmission accounted for 11%.

Tumimbang described the rise in COVID-19 cases as “alarming” because the province previously had single digit daily reports.

“Coming from eight (COVID-19 cases), we reached more than 100 cases in a matter of days since we started the antigen testing,” he said.

It is possible, he said, that relaxed travel rules allowed returning asymptomatic passengers who did not know they were infected, to go home in December.

The DOH Western Visayas office’s January 10 report showed that the province had the highest number of new cases in the region, followed by its capital, Bacolod City. Of its 105 new cases, 56 were LSIs, 48 local cases, and one a returning overseas Filipino. Bacolod’s 50 new cases are all local transmissions.

Tumimbang said hospitals have not reported severe cases. He credited this to vaccines, noting that infected fully vaccinated patients were largely asymptomatic. The province does not require COVID-19 asymptomatic patients to isolate in health centers but places households under quarantine.

Vaccine woes

The province has revved up its vaccine program after a slowdown due to Odette’s impact on local government facilities, the PHO said.

Tumimbang said only eight of 31 LGUs have vaccinated 70% of its target population: the cities of La Carlota, Cadiz, Sagay, Talisay, and Victorias; and the towns of Murcia, EB Magalona, and Pulupandan.

At least nine LGUs have a full vaccination figure below 50% of their target population – Calatrava, Toboso, Cauayan, La Castellana, San Carlos City, Moises Padilla, Manapla, Isabela, and Sipalay City.

Tumimbang traced the low vaccination turnout to resistance among hinterland barangays and indigenous peoples ( communities. He urged LGUs to improve campaign advocacy, including among certain religious groups. 

As of January 9, the province had fully vaccinated 873,223 persons or 47.84% of its 1.825-million target population. Tumimbang said 1,135,731 individuals had at least one vaccine dose. –

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