9 Mindanao provinces seen as virus hotspots
Nine provinces in Mindanao are now emerging as hotspots for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.
At a briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire identified the provinces as Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte and Misamis Occidental in Region 10 or Northern Mindanao; Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and Davao Oriental in Region 11; South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in Region 12, and Maguindanao in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“In Mindanao, yes, there are emerging hotspots. These areas have cases already but have suddenly seen a significant increase in COVID-19,” Vergeire noted.
A place can also be considered a hotspot if it reports a case or cases after two weeks of being COVID-19 free.
According to Vergeire, there are many factors that can be considered for the emergence or increase of cases in an area.
“I am not discounting the possibility that the natural movement of people is a contributor to the hotspot or to the sudden increase in cases in a specific area,” she said, referring to those going back to their provinces. She said these travelers
could contribute to the spread of the virus, especially “if coming from an area which has community transmission or sustained community transmission and then going inside an area that is not sterile.”
“That is a possibility that we can consider. This is not specific to Mindanao and in epidemiologic concept, this is a factor why the disease spreads – the natural movement of people,” she said.
Vergeire explained there are protocols that must be observed before a person can be allowed to go back to his home province or hometown.
These include being tested for COVID-19 before they leave for their destination and undergoing a 14-day quarantine upon arrival there.
She reiterated that the “gold standard” for COVID-19 test is the realtime-polymerase chain reaction (RTPCR). If travelers are tested using rapid antibody test kits, the results should be validated using RT-PCR.
Earlier, the DOH branded Cebu City, Cebu province, Ormoc City, Southern Leyte, Leyte and Samar as the emerging hotspots for COVID-19. But yesterday, the DOH clarified the National Capital Region (NCR), and not Cebu City, remains to be the epicenter of COVID-19, contrary to the pronouncement of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año last Monday.
“A lot of experts are saying that NCR is still the epicenter, while we are seeing hotspots in other areas of the country,” Vergeire said.
She noted that while the number of COVID-19 cases in NCR continues to increase, the cases in Cebu City are “booming.”
“We try to analyze again after two weeks but for now it is still NCR and Cebu is just one of the hotspots or areas of specific focus for DOH,” the official added.
Vergeire said from the very start, they have been monitoring Cebu City because of rising cases in detention cells and in the community.
“The LGUs (there) are saying that this was brought about by massive testing which they really did. Cebu City went barangay per barangay to do rapid tests in their community cluster,” she added.
A member of the Manila Police SWAT team patrols the gates of Quiapo Church yesterday after it was put on lockdown due to reports that a visitor priest has been infected with COVID-19. Story on Page 8. EDD GUMBAN