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This Week in Northern Luzon (December 12 to 18, 2020)

Baguio and Ilocos are preparing for Christmas!

By: Antonette Louise Guiao | December 12, 2020
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holiday season, quarantine, COVID-19, Quarantine Updates, Health News, Baguio, Ilocos Norte

Now that the holiday season is right around the corner, authorities of Ilocos Sur decided to allow returning residents to spend Christmas and New Year with their loved ones by permitting home quarantine. On the other hand, Ilocos Norte banned mass gatherings after seeing a sudden spike of cases in the province. Meanwhile, the province of Baguio lays out plans for the increase of its daily tourist arrivals from 500 to 1,000. The city also started to double its preparation for a potential COVID-10 case surge this holiday season by aiming to complete over 1,000 isolation beds in the city.

Quarantine Updates

Ilocos Sur government allowed home quarantine this Christmas season

Last November 27, Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson issued Executive Order no. 45, allowing all returning residents, locally stranded individuals, and returning overseas Filipino workers to spend their quarantine at home from December 7, 2020 to January 10, 2021. Their travels must be coordinated with the local government unit of their residence. They shall issue a Certificate of Acceptance from the barangay captain of their residence that specifically states the name of person/people who are allowed to enter their barangays. The certificate shall be presented upon arrival at the border prior to their entrance.

The following documents must be presented before entry to the borders of Ilocos Sur:

• For locally stranded individuals - health certificate, travel authority, proof of residence in Ilocos Sur, Certificate of Acceptance from LGU of residence, and negative RT-PCR result taken within 72 hours from the date of entry or antigen test issued within 24 hours of entry if RT-PCR test is unavailable

• For returning residents - health certificate, travel authority, ID with residential address in Ilocos Sur, Certificate of Acceptance from the LGU of residence, negative RT-PCR result taken within 72 hours from the date of entry or antigen test issued within 24 hours of entry if RT-PCR test is unavailable, and Certificate of Employment stating the status of employment and/or period of approved vacation from work

• For returning OFWs - certificate from the Bureau of Quarantine that he/she has completed the 14-day quarantine or at least have been subjected to initial quarantine immediately upon arrival in the Philippines, result of negative RT-PCR, travel authority, and Certificate of Acceptance from the LGU of Residence.

Facility quarantine will not be required for returning residents during this period, but they must strictly stay with their families for 14 days upon arrival and must follow safety protocols. They must also undergo mandatory antigen testing on the 4th, 8th, and 12th days of their home quarantine, and these tests will be shouldered by them.

All household members of returning residents shall be treated as persons under monitoring within 14 days from the time of arrival of the returning resident in their homes. The LGU shall strictly monitor the movements of the resident and household members for contact tracing purposes. [1]

Health News

Baguio City plans to reach over 1,000 isolation beds by the end of 2020

The City of Baguio laid out plans to complete over 1,000 isolation beds by the end of 2020 to accommodate the projected increase of COVID-19 cases during the Christmas season. Baguio City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña reported that the Sto. Niño Hospital which is currently serving as an isolation unit will have a maximum bed capacity of 400 by the end of the month. Meanwhile, the Roxas Hall, which has a capacity of 116 beds; the Hernandez Hall with a capacity of 112 beds; and the Superintendent's Quarters at Teacher’s Camp are being upgraded to a 560-joint capacity by the end of the month.

In addition, the city was able to acquire V Dorm 2 with a capacity of 53 beds and the Ferioni Apartment with a capacity of 60 beds. Both now serve as quarantine facilities for those who are waiting for their swab test results from the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. City Health Officer Rowena Galpo explained that there are over 500 beds available following the discharge of patients from different isolation facilities, but this is not a reason for people to be complacent; there might still be an increase in cases that could stress the local health care system and overwork the frontliners. [2 & 3]

Baguio increased number of daily tourist arrivals from 500 to 1,000

Baguio City officials decided to increase the number of daily tourist arrivals in the province from 500 to 1,000. Engr. Aloysius Mapalo, the supervising tourism operations officer, reported that increasing the number of tourists is a part of the city’s strategy to gradually, safely, and responsibly open its tourism industry. He added that there are 3,200 approved travel requests to the city from December 1 to 31 with an expected increase in the coming days due to the yuletide season. Two to three hundred travel requests are approved daily.

Mapalo also claimed that ever since the province expanded its coverage of tourists to Luzon, the travel requests to the city have increased, with 80% coming from those residing in the National Capital Region and the remaining 20% from other regions in Luzon. Efforts are being done to control the spread of COVID-19 in the city after the projections from health authorities on the possible increase of cases due to unavoidable family gatherings for Christmas and New Year. [4]

The Department of Health continues to monitor the City of Baguio after seeing a sudden surge of cases that might have been a result of aggressive testing and contact tracing in the last two weeks. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the positivity rate in the city during that time was at 13.5%, which was high compared to the World Health Organization’s 5% or less benchmark. Positivity rates show the total number of confirmed infections in a group of people who tested for the virus.

She added that this was noticeable after the province eased screening restrictions at the borders. Baguio widened its tourist coverage and allowed tourists from Luzon, but restricted its borders with Benguet province following a spike of cases in neighboring towns. The city also recently reopened its night market but had to close it again due to “lapses in crowd control”. The reopening occurred at the same time as the ceremonial Giant Christmas Tree lighting on upper Session Road, which attracted up to 1,500 people. Both events violated social distancing protocols. Vergeire mentioned that the DOH has coordinated with city officials to help determine the implications of the surging cases. [5]

Ilocos Norte bans mass gatherings after sharp spike of cases

The local government of Ilocos Norte banned mass gatherings after a sharp spike of cases in the province. Only 15 people for indoor and 40 people for outdoor settings shall be allowed. Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc urged all residents to avoid mass gatherings including those in private homes, parks, and restaurants. Provincial Consultant on COVID-19 Dr. Norman Rabago stated that even if a close contact of a COVID-19-positive individual tests negative, he/she still needs to complete the 14-day quarantine as a precaution. He also called out to the residents to help them suppress the spread of the virus, and that they can only “win this war” if they are together. [6 & 7]

Go to Yoorekka for more COVID-19 updates in Northern Luzon.

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About Antonette Louise Guiao
Antonette is a writer, a night owl, an extrovert, and a BTS ARMY. Her spare time is consumed by drawing digital vector art, sleeping, binge-watching Netflix series, and learning how to cook. An adventurer by heart, she aspires to travel the world with her family, try extreme outdoor activities, and taste all sorts of food in different countries.
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Disclaimer: All articles in the Consumers Magazine of Yoorekka are for general information and entertainment purposes only. Although careful research has been made in writing them, Yoorekka does not make any warranty about the completeness and accuracy of all information presented in our articles. Our content is not intended to be used in place of legal, medical, or any professional advice.
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