BUKIDNON, Philippines – The provincial government of Bukidnon ordered stricter travel rules to make sure that inbound travelers are either vaccinated or negative for COVID-19 before they are allowed to set foot in the province.
Bukidnon has been placed under Alert Level 3 from January 16 to January 31, based on Resolution 157-A of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the threat posed by the Omicron variant.
Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri ordered the police to require travelers to first show vaccination cards and valid identification documents before they are allowed to enter the province.
For the unvaccinated, Zubiri said recent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results showing that the travelers tested negative for COVID-19 would suffice.
“I am going to conduct random inspections in checkpoints to ensure this order is carried out,” said Zubiri of his memorandum to the Bukidnon Provincial Police Office on Monday, January 17.
He said Bukidnon’s 20 municipalities and the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia were also given instructions to prepare their COVID-19 isolation facilities in anticipation of the continued increase in infections in the coming weeks.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Bukidnon has been increasing since last week, according to Dr. Gary Guido Tabios, Provincial Health Office (PHO) chief.
As of Monday, the capitol logged 365 active cases in Bukidnon, mostly recorded in Malaybalay City, the seat of the provincial government.
Malaybalay accounted for 128 of the active COVID-19 cases, followed by Manolo Fortich town with 58, Valencia City with 44, and Maramag with 37.
Three Bukidnon towns – Damulog, Kadingilan, and Kitaotao – documented no COVID-19 case as of Monday.
During the last surge in 2021, Valencia City saw the most number of infections and COVID-19-related deaths. The cases dropped in the last quarter, and despite a slight increase in the number of new cases this year, it registered no COVID-19-related death since December 5.
At the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center (BPMC), the province’s primary COVID-19 referral hospital, the number of COVID-19 patients was increasing and most of those with severe symptoms were unvaccinated, BPMC chief Miguel Antonio Prantilla said on Tuesday, January 18.
“Most of the [patients admitted to] the hospital tested positive for COVID-19,” Prantilla said. He said this was in contrast to the weeks right after last year’s final surge when people being brought to the hospital tested negative for COVID-19.
Prantilla said BPMC just admitted 14 patients who tested positive for COVID-19, but only a few had severe symptoms.
“Most of those experiencing the severity of COVID-19 are unvaccinated patients,” he said.
Bukidnon has so far fully vaccinated 712,906 people or 66.70% of the 1,068,778 eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. The provincial government has also so far given first jabs to 829,513.
Five municipalities in Bukidnon with the lowest vaccination turnout in the province are Damulog (48%), San Fernando (51%), Kitaotao (55%), and Kadingilan and Quezon (57%). –Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.