BUKIDNON, Philippines – Davao City hit a new record since the start of 2022 by logging 493 new COVID-19 cases – or nearly 700% in a week – on Sunday, January 16. Davao Mayor Sara Duterte called it the 4th surge of COVID-19 cases in the city.
The city also saw its total number of active COVID-19 cases increasing by 100% in just three days, or from 1,114 on Thursday, January 13, to 2,229 on Sunday, data from the Department of Health (DOH) in Southern Mindanao showed.
Data showed Davao City logged 74 newly documented COVID-19 infections on January 9. Seven days later, the number reached 493.
Duterte said officials could not attribute the surge to the more transmissible Omicron variant due to the lack of data.
“But the way it is surging, it looks like Omicron. However, it doesn’t matter what the variant is,” Duterte said.
The city accounted for 72.2% of the total number of active COVID-19 cases in the Davao region. The region registered 3,083 active cases from 662 or more than four times since last week, data from the DOH regional office as of January 16 showed.
Davao del Norte province saw the second most number of active cases in the region at 400, followed by Davao del Sur at 215, and Davao de Oro at 132.
The provinces of Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental each logged a two-digit number of total active cases.
But data showed the majority of those who caught the virus in the region showed no COVID-19 symptoms.
The DOH regional office said 2,007 or 65.1% of the infected were asymptomatic, and 1,040 or 33.7% had mild symptoms.
DOH said 34 or only 1.1% experienced severe symptoms while two others or 0.1% are in critical condition.
Despite the increase in the number of cases, the Davao region recorded no COVID-19-related deaths from January 15 to January 16.
But it logged 18 deaths blamed on the virus from January 9 to January 14. Davao City, Davao de Oro, and Davao del Norte each recorded five deaths during the period.
As of January 15, the Davao region had 87 of its 186 intensive care unit beds in use, including 34 of 107 mechanical ventilators.
The region also used 306 of its 764 COVID-19 isolation beds while 203 of its 523 ward beds were in use by COVID-19 patients.
Mayor Duterte cautioned people traveling to Davao City to avoid leisure visits or entertainment activities.
Authorities were also keeping an eye on people from areas categorized as critical and moderate to stop the spread of the virus.
The city government listed 92 Davao barangays under the moderate to critical risk categories. The remaining 90 barangays of the city have been classified as low-risk areas.
But city hall has not gone stricter on travelers. Based on her January 17 order, inbound travelers are not required to present their RT-PCR results.
“No document shall be required for entry into Davao City except for security checks that the military and police require for their anti-crime, anti-illegal drugs, and anti-terrorism operations,” read part of Duterte’s Executive Order No. 2, series of 2022.
Duterte told the Davao City Disaster Radio on Monday that requiring RT-PCR tests from travelers “doesn’t outweigh the economic losses, the burden of airlines, expenses, and inconveniences to travelers.”
She said city hall “will be liberal in the implementation of Alert Level 3” in the city.
“There will be no [city-wide] lockdown, except for those identified areas which have cases. We have to accept that COVID-19 is part of our life. We live with the pandemic,” said Duterte.
Last week, Duterte said local officials expected COVID-19 cases to surge toward the end of January.
She pleaded again to the unvaccinated in Davao to get inoculated while vaccine supplies last, saying the jabs could cushion the effects of infections and prevent people from dying.
Davao City has so far inoculated more than a million residents, and the local government opened more booster sites at the Crocodile Park, malls, and several drive-through establishments, among others. – Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship