5 areas in Mindanao placed under Alert Level 3 from January 14-31

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Jan) – With the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country after the holidays and the arrival of the Omicron variant, five areas in Mindanao have been placed under Alert Level 3 from January 14 to 31, the national Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) announced Wednesday.

Hundreds flock to a vaccination hub in Davao City for booster shots as health officials are alarmed with the increase in COVID-19 cases just after the holidays and with the threat posed by the Omicron variant. Mindanews file photo

These are Cagayan de Oro City in Region 10, Davao City in Region 11, Butuan City and Agusan del Sur in the Caraga Region, and Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Davao City, considered as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mindanao, reported 243 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total cases to 54,700 with 811 active, 52,094 recovered, and 1,795 dead, according to the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao.

Also placed under Alert Level 3 as per IATF Resolution NO. 156-C are Benguet, Kalinga, and Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region; La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Pangasinan in Region I; Nueva Viscaya, Isabela, and Quirino in Region II; Nueva Ecija and Tarlac in Region III; Quezon Province in Region IV-A; Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro in Region IV-B; Camarines Sur and Albay in Region V; Bacolod City, Aklan, Capiz, and Antique in Region VI; Cebu City and Mandaue City in Region VII; and Tacloban City in Region VIII.

Alert Level 3 refers to areas wherein case counts are high and/or increasing, with total bed utilization rate and intensive care unit utilization rate at increasing utilization, according to the IATF Guidelines on the Nationwide Implementation of Alert Level System for COVID-19 Response.

Earlier in the day, Dr. Michelle Schlosser, spokesperson of the Davao City COVID-19 Task Force, said they were expecting the city to be placed under Alert Level 3 as it has been seeing a gradual increase in the number of new infections at the start of the year but authorities expected the surge will take place by either the third or fourth week of this month.

She said the positivity rate of the city has grown to 8%, which is way above the 5% threshold considered as acceptable by the World Health Organization.

Schlosser noted that the city still has no confirmed case of the Omicron variant and that it is “battling Delta at the moment.”

She said the DOH-Davao submitted 4,000 specimens for whole genome sequencing last December 30 to detect other variants of COVID-19. The results, Schlosser said, are expected to come out in three to four weeks.

“The whole genome sequencing takes time. Even without the result of whole genome sequencing, we are already anticipating that we will be battling Omicron soon…. Based on studies, Omicron is 10 times more transmissible. If you are scared of the high transmissibility of Delta, expect 10 times more of it,” Schlosser said.

She urged the public to get vaccinated against the infection to give themselves another layer of protection against COVID-19.

“If we are vaccinated, it will protect us from the severity of the disease, meaning you have bigger protection against a severe and critical type of COVID-19 case. If you ever get infected, you may likely be an asymptomatic, mild, or moderate case,” she said. As of January 10, the City Government of Davao reported 1,247,949 individuals vaccinated with the first dose and 1,181,807 fully vaccinated. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)