DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 June) – Mindanao’s COVID-19 cases have breached the 100,000 mark as 30,000 more cases were recorded across its six regions in the month of May, the highest monthly total since March last year, overwhelming the healthcare system in several areas as hospitals and temporary treatment and monitoring facilities are full or near full capacity.
Data collated by MindaNews from reports of the five regional offices of the Department of Health in Mindanao and the Bangsamoro’s Ministry of Health show that Mindanao’s total number of cases was 70,305 on May 1. By May 31, it had risen to 99,683 or 29,558 more. By June 1, the number rose to 101,632
The number of persons infected with COVID-19 in May across Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities was thrice the number of cases recorded in April. On March 31, Mindanao had 59,239 cases; by April 30 it had 69,790 or 10,551 more than was recorded in March; and by May 31 it recorded 99,863 or 30,073 more than was recorded in April.
The number of recoveries went up from 61,237 on May 1 to 78,069 on June 1; the number of deaths from 2,518 on May 1 to 3,482 on June 1. On May 1, the number of active cases was only 6,483. On June 1, Mindanao recorded 20,074 active cases.
“Tumataas nang mabilis” (increasing at a fast rate), Health Secretary Francisco Duque said of Mindanao’s COVID-19 cases, in his report to President Rodrigo Duterte during the latter’s “Talk to the People on COVID-19” on May 31. Duque, however, did not cite reasons behind the surge in Mindanao.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) placed the cities of Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Butuan and the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay and Agusan del under Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from June 1 to 30 while the cities of Iligan, Davao City, Cotabato and the province of Lanao del Sur remain under General Community Quarantine (GCQ). The rest are under Modified GCQ.
The IATF, however, granted the request of the Davao City government to place the city under MECQ from June 5 to June 20, due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.
Zamboanga City was placed under MECQ much earlier, on May 6, supposedly only until May 15 but extended until May 31 and further extended until June 30.
Zambo region tops first half of May, Northern Mindanao second half
The number of cases posted by the DOH national tracker differs from what the regional DOH and MOH in Mindanao post. The DOH national tracker has higher number of cases but fewer number of deaths. Its May 31 tally for Mindanao was 106,868 total cases with 2,485 deaths but records of Mindanao’s regional DOH offices and the Bangsamoro’s DOH showed 99,863 total cases, with 3,421 deaths.
MindaNews’ monitoring of Mindanao cases since last year has been based on the daily statistics from the DOH regional and MOH.
For the month of May, Region 10 or Northern Mindanao topped the number of cases among the six regions, recording 7,166 more, from 14,152 on May 1 to 21,318 on May 31; followed by Region 9 with 6,949, from 10,139 on May 1 to 17,088 on May 31.
Region 12 or Soccsksargen reported 4,750 additional cases in May, from 7,470 on May 1 to 12,220 on May 31; Region 11 or the Davao region, with 4,659 more, from 23,398 on May 1 to 28,056 on May 31. Caraga recorded an increase of 4,443 cases, from 10,101 on May 1 to 14,544 on May 31; and the Bangsamoro with 1,592 more cases, from 5,045 on May 1 to 6,637 on May 31.
Region 9 or the Zamboanga Peninsula actually recorded the highest number from May 1 to 15 with 3,391 cases but Northern Mindanao took the lead in the second half of May with 4,652.
Among Mindanao’s 33 cities, Zamboanga City posted the highest increase in cases in May followed by Cagayan de Oro , Davao City and General Santos. These are the four cities whichrecorded an increase of over a thousand cases in the month of May.
Zamboanga City recorded an increase of 3,669, from 6,448 on May 1 to 10,117 on May 31; Cagayan de Oro with 2,620, from 4,949 on May 1 to 7,569 on May 31; Davao City with 2,490, from 14,510 on May 1 to 17,0000 on May 31 and General Santos with 1,315, from 2,482 on May 1 to 3,797 on May 31.
From January to early May, four variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 had been detected in some areas in Mindanao – B.1.1.7 (first detected in the UK), B.1351 (first detected in South Africa), P.1 (first detected in Brazil) and P.3 (first detected in the Philippines) — but they had recovered, according to the DOH-CHD in the regions of Davao, Northern Mindanao, Caraga and Soccsksargen.
By end of May, Zamboanga Peninsula confirmed the presence of the variants B.1351, B.1.17 and P.3.
The DOH Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) regional office in a press release on May 31 said samples collected from Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur from March 29 to May 5 tested positive of the three variants: two B.1.1.7 and 54 for B.1351, and one for P.3.
Samples taken in Mindanao are sent to the University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) in Diliman, Quezon City for whole genome sequencing (WGS). The results are known weeks later. The PGC in the UP Mindanao campus in Davao City will soon start its pilot sequencing covering the entire Mindanao in collaboration with Accessible Genomics, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and University of Glasgow, said PGC Mindanao program director Dr. Lyre Murao.
Murao said they are applying for ethics approval under the Single Joint Research Ethics Board of the DOH central office. The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine is “facilitating this for us and we are constantly communicating with them for updates.” The Center is also awaiting approval from the Institutional Biosafety and Biosecurity Committee of UP Mindanao.
The press release of DOH in Region 9 did not say in what areas were the variant cases recorded but the City Government of Zamboanga posted on its Facebook page on May 31 that the DOH and UP-PGC confirmed on May 30 that based on tests conducted on 257 samples sent by the DOH regional office starting March 25, 2021, “52 were found to be cases of variants of concern, of which 51 were cases of the South African variant while one case was Philippine variant.”
Of the 52 cases, 37 had fully recovered while 15 died, but it added that “some of those who expired had co-morbidities.”
In the month of May, Zamboanga City’s cases increased by 3,669 from 6,448 on May 1 to 10,117 on May 31; Zamboanga del Sur’s increased by 1,434, from 1,725 to 3,159; Zam\boanga del Nore’s by 1,100, from 1,086 to 2,186; Zamboanga Sibugay’s by 442, from 544 to 986 and Isabela City’s by 304, from 336 to 640.
The DOH central office in a press release on May 4 said B.1.351 is “the most common variant among the samples sequenced with assigned lineages.”
In Caraga region, 21 samples sent to UP-PGC tested positive of the variants — 13 B.1351, seven B.1.17 and one P3, according to the DOH Caraga region on June 4.
All 13 B.1351 cases are residents of Surigao del Sur: seven in Bislig, four in Lianga one in Cortes and one in Tandag City. According to DOH Caraga, two of these patients — one from Bislig and one from Cortes – “died while admitted in the hospital.”
Of the seven B.1.17 cases, two are residents of Barobo in Surigao del Sur, two in Butuan City in Agusan del Norte, one in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, one in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, one in Madrid and Surigao del Sur. The P3 case is a resident of Tandag City.
Out of the 21 variant cases, 13 have no travel history outside their area while eight are close contacts of previously confirmed cases. The DOH-Caraga added that 18 “are already asymptomatic and back to their normal daily routine” while one is still recovering at home.
The cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro are still awaiting results of the samples sent to the UP-PGC.
Dr. Ashley Lopez, acting head of City Health Office in Davao City said on Wednesday over the city-run radio station DCDR that the surge in COVID-19 cases could have been caused by the presence of an “undetected” variant of SARS-CoV-2.
He said he was alarmed that the increase in new COVID-19 cases is sudden not gradual.
“I cannot confirm this yet but I suspect that there is a variant that’s going around because the increase in new cases is very fast… we have yet to receive a report from Philippine Genome Center. I believe it is because it’s seven times faster than what we had last October and November,” he said.
On May 31, Davao City recorded 17,000 cases, of which 1,665 were active, 14,580 recoveries and 755 deaths.
By June 5, the total cases had reached 18,195, with 2,390 classified as active, 15,029 recoveries and 776 deaths, 21 of them between May 31 and June 5. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)