CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro saw its number of new single-day COVID-19 cases back to two digits as soon as the government placed the city under the least strict alert level category this week.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed the city under Alert Level 1 from March 1 to March 15, a move called by Mayor Oscar Moreno as “experimental.”
The number of daily COVID-19 infections in the city already dropped to a single-digit level in February following a surge in January that was blamed on the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant and people’s complacency during the December 2021 holidays.
But the number of new daily cases increased by more than 50% on Monday, February 28, a day after Malacañang announced lesser pandemic restrictions in Cagayan de Oro and dozens of other areas across the country.
Cagayan de Oro counted five new single-day cases on Saturday, February 26, and another six on Sunday, February 27.
By Monday, February 28, city hall logged 23 new cases, and 32 and 14 cases on the first two days of the city’s 15-day Alert Level 1 status.
“It doesn’t follow that just because we are on Alert Level 1 that we’re out of the woods now and that we don’t have any more problems. That’s because the virus is still out there. The virus is still contagious and transmissible, and that’s why di pa ta angay magkumpinyasa (we should not take chances). The Alert Level 1 declaration is an experimental move by the government to see if the people can (protect themselves under a less strict environment),” Moreno said.
The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the city, however, continued to show a consistent drop since Sunday. City hall logged 670 active cases on Sunday, 509 on Monday, 203 on Tuesday, and 140 on Wednesday.
Moreno said the government’s overall strategy is to allow the country’s economy to pick up while trusting citizens to continue observing minimum public health standards to keep COVID-19 from further spreading.
Despite the least strict alert level, Moreno ordered the 11 pm to 4 am curfew hours in the city to remain in effect, a decision Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Oro Chamber) president Ray Talimio said should be reconsidered.
Moreno said, “The curfew is still enforced. We will observe first.”
He said city hall “may relax the curfew in a week or two” if the number of new COVID-19 infections would drop.
Jose Edgardo Uy, chairman of the economic cluster of Cagayan de Oro’s COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, said city hall has already allowed all establishments to operate at full capacity since Tuesday.
Uy said city hall has also lifted restrictions on movements, and anyone can move around and travel regardless of age.
But he said people are still required to bring with them their QR codes and COVID-19 vaccination cards when they go to malls and similar establishments, wear face masks and observe physical distancing.
Moreno said the city, like many other areas, has been placed under Alert Level 1 classification mainly due to its relatively high vaccination rate.
Dr. Ted Yu Jr., City Health Office medical officer, said the city has so far registered a vaccination rate of 88% or 18% more than the requirement set by the IATF and Department of Health (DOH).
Despite this, city hall said the vaccination campaign would continue.
Neither should the Alert Level 1 be seen as a license to be complacent or skip COVID-19 vaccination, said Moreno. – Rappler.com