Still too early to shut borders, says Negros Occidental governor

Marchel Espina
Still too early to shut borders, says Negros Occidental governor
Negros Occidental Governor Bong Lacson says provincial health officials are closely monitoring the situation following the confirmation of Omicron sub-variant cases in Iloilo

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Negros Occidental will not tighten border controls yet despite reports of local cases of the COVID-19 Omicron sub-variant in Iloilo, Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson said on Wednesday, May 18.

“It’s too early for that,” Lacson told reporters. “We’ll have to observe how it goes.”

The governor said provincial health officials will be closely monitoring the spread of the new Omicron sub-variant, said to be more infectious than the dominant Omicron variant that caused a spike in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year.

The governor’s statement followed Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire’s announcement that two of three Iloilo residents whose genome sequencing results showed infection with BA.2.12.1 did not have travel histories. The third was a returning overseas Filipino from the United States, where the new subvariant is spreading. 

Lacson noted that hospitalization rates involving the new sub-variant are still low, indicating mild virulence. But he urged the province’s mayors to step up their vaccine drives to protect their communities.

Most of the province – except for the independent capital Bacolod City and seven local government units: Sagay, Victorias and La Carlota cities, and the towns of E. B. Magalona, Pulupandan, San Enrique, and Candoni – is under Alert Level 2.

The Provincial Incident Management Team reported two new COVID-19 cases on May 18, bringing to 12 the number of active infections in Negros Occidental.

Under current local travel guidelines, vaccinated travelers no longer have to apply for the S-PaSS permit, but should prepare to show their vaccination cards.

Unvaccinated travelers will have to undergo free rapid antigen testing upon arrival at the airport, or seaports of the province.

The Department of Health in Western Visayas said on Monday, May 16 that the province has the region’s lowest vaccination rate, covering only 62.47% of its target population and only 58.85% of its target senior citizens.

In contrast, capital city Bacolod has vaccinated 133.55% of its target population and 58.85% of its senior citizens target. –

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