9 Min­danao prov­inces seen as virus hotspots

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By SHEILA CRISOSTOMO

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

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