First UK variant traced as Agusan Sur starts MECQ

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 2 June) – The provincial government of Agusan del Sur has enforced stringent measures on health protocols for residents to strictly follow after the province was placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) from June 1-15 by President Rodrigo Duterte in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases here.

A COVID-19 checkpoint in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. MindaNews file photo by CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

This developed as the first case of the United Kingdom (B117) variant of COVID-19 was detected in the swab sample of a female resident of Barangay San Toribio in Esperanza town. She was among seven in the Caraga Region who tested positive of the “variant of concern” based on the results released by the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center on May 26.

Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. has tasked the local police and civilian protocol enforcers in the entire province to strictly implement the MECQ measures and to penalize violators.

The stricter measures was agreed upon during a day-long virtual meeting on Tuesday among four provincial special bodies – Provincial Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19, Provincial Health Board, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and Provincial Development Council.

This stringent policy was agreed upon by the special bodies even before the province was declared under MECQ as the cases of COVID-19 continue to rise since last month with an average daily positive case of 40-60 patients that had already overwhelmed government hospitals and quarantine facilities.

On the same day the province was placed under MECQ, the Provincial Health Office has announced in a social media post that the first UK variant case was a direct contact of her parents who both earlier tested positive based on the result issued by DO Plaza Memorial Hospital Molecular Laboratory on April 28.

The UK variant patient was quarantined at home after contact-tracing, and tested positive two days after quarantine. She was then isolated for 14 days at the Esperanza Quarantine Facility. She had no travel history prior to the incident and was already tagged as having fully recovered.

It was not clear from the UP Genome Center results if the parents tested negative of the UK variant.

Provincial health officials, meanwhile, pointed out that more intensive contact tracing should be done to prevent further transmission of the new variant.

“Contract tracing was already done as much as we can,” Cane told MindaNews over online chat.

More stringent measures that will be enforced during the 15-day MECQ period in the province include the stay-at-home policy for every family with only one person allowed to go out to buy essential items like food and medicine.

Those aged 18 years and below and 65 and above are prohibited to go out of their homes except those elderly scheduled for vaccination. Church attendance is only allowed at 10-percent capacity, skeleton workforce for both private and government offices allowing work-from-home scheme for workers, one rider for single motorcycle, 50-percent capacity for passenger buses and vans, and curfew hours imposed but the duration is up to each local government unit to determine.  (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)