Baguio hastens contingencies versus Delta variant

21 July 2021 – Mayor Benjamin Magalong on July 20 sought hastening of the contingency measures against the more virulent Delta variant of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as more cases were recorded in Manila and other parts of the country.

He directed a follow-through on the city’s action plan presented during the meeting of the local Inter-Agency Task Force held July 16.

“While we have begun implementing some of the strategies in the past two to three weeks, we need to prepare adequately.   The latest we heard is that the impact of the Delta variant in Indonesia is catastrophic,” the mayor said.

City Health Officer Dr. Rowena Galpo and City Epidemiologist said the city needs to prepare for the worst-case scenario judging from the variant’s huge effects in neighboring countries Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand which posted a record-high number of cases at 480,000, 108,000, and 103,000 respectively.

The city’s contingency plan:

* Stricter border control covering all entry and exit checkpoints, triage including test requirement.  The city has just imposed RT-PCR test requirements for tourists aged 17 and below and unvaccinated adults aged over 65 years.  The mayor also sought to strengthen inter-local government unit police collaboration.  Monitoring of arrivals will also be intensified.

* Strict completion of quarantine or isolation of returning overseas Filipinos in a facility especially those coming from high-risk countries.

*Intensify vaccination efforts by seeking out vulnerable groups like senior citizens and people with comorbidities who are still hesitant, fast-tracking of the second dose, a continuation of the mobile vaccination in barangays and setting up of more vaccination sites and hiring of additional vaccinators.  Barangays had been tasked to work out identification and convincing of susceptible persons to undergo vaccination otherwise they would have to explain in case a vulnerable constituent dies unvaccinated.  They have been given until July 23 to submit a survey of unvaccinated seniors and persons with underlying conditions. 

*Monitoring of compliance with the minimum public health standards by suspending activities that do not strictly comply with the MPHS, conducting a regular and random inspection of business establishments, monitoring of public places even at the barangay level, and limiting mass gatherings.

*Enhance contact tracing by partnering with the private sector through the business process outsourcing (BPO) and companies with large manpower to help out in contact tracing operations.  The city is working out the hiring of additional contact tracers with the end of the contract of national government-paid contact tracers.  It has trained contact tracers from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) locators.  The Baguio City Police Office has also designated additional contact trainers to augment the city’s teams.

* Ramp up targeted testing with the help of the private sector.

* Prepare more isolation and quarantine facilities and maintain strict implementation of isolation and quarantine policies for active cases and facility-based isolation.

* Impose granular lockdowns over puroks with critical clusters and those with low compliance with minimum public health standards.

*Strengthen case referral and navigation system through the Baguio One Hospital Command.

*Ensure adequate critical equipment, medicines and supplies like oxygen, oxygen tanks, concentrators and oxygenators, personal protective equipment, disinfectants and others.  Hospitals and city-run facilities have submitted their inventories and the mayor directed them to speed up stockpiling of these supplies to prepare for increased hospitalizations due to the variant’s more infectious and more severe nature.  A disinfectant machine has been set up by the city government to ensure a steady supply of hypochlorous acid to be provided free of charge to hospitals and facilities.

*Address mental health and wellness of frontliners.

*Other strategies include control in the use and sale of liquor and monitoring, adoption of alternative work arrangements. – Aileen P. Refuerzo