Negros Occidental authorities on alert, urge mask-wearing due to COVID FLiRT

Erwin Delilan

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Negros Occidental authorities on alert, urge mask-wearing due to COVID FLiRT

Raffy de Guzman/Rappler

Health officials in Negros Occidental advise the public to take precautions but also tell them not to panic

BACOLOD, Philippines – The Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) has raised the alert level due to the new COVID-19 strains called FLiRT variants, which have been spreading in other countries.

As a result, health officials in Negros Occidental have also been put on alert, urging people to start wearing face masks again.

Dr. Gerlie Pinongan, Negros Occidental’s provincial health chief, said on Friday, May 31, that all city and municipal health officers in the province have been instructed to monitor potential FLiRT cases within their jurisdictions and to identify possible quarantine sites, potentially repurposing facilities used during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the precautions, Pinongan urged the public not to panic, adding that Negros Occidental remains free of FLiRT cases.

In Bacolod City, Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez ordered the City Health Office to start an information campaign about FLiRT. 

Immediately, Bacolod health officials appealed to people to wear face masks again in crowded or enclosed spaces.

The Department of Health (DOH) said FLiRT symptoms are similar to those of other COVID-19 variants, including fever, cough, sore throat, congested or runny nose, headache, muscle ache, and fever. 

The BOQ, which is under the DOH, issued Memorandum No. 2024-48, alerting the public to newly discovered variants KP.2 and KP.3, now collectively referred to as FLiRT variants of COVID-19.

Copies of the memorandum, signed by BOQ chief Ferdinand Salcedo on May 24, were released by the DOH in Western Visayas on Thursday, May 30.

In the memo, Salcedo directed all BOQ stations nationwide to conduct thorough screenings at points of entry for travelers arriving from countries where FLiRT variants have been detected.

Some places identified by the DOH with FLiRT cases are the following:

  • Singapore
  • India
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Nepal
  • Israel
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • United States
  • Europe

In a separate advisory, the DOH emphasized the importance of travelers completing health questionnaires available through e-travel applications. 

Authorities also reminded the public to follow basic health measures, such as frequent handwashing, proper coughing etiquette, avoiding crowded situations, and steering clear of individuals exhibiting flu-like symptoms. –

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