The city logged 300 plus cases for the third time in four days with Wednesday’s 374 new cases as the most that active cases has swollen to 1,725 active cases from the four just 17 days ago prompting mayor Benjamin Magalong to acknowledge the presence of the Omicron variant which he said is the fuel for the latest Covid-19 surge.
“All indications point to the fact that Omicron is already here,” Magalong said on a taped statement aired over the Public Information Office – Baguio Facebook wall as more restrictions are expected the next days to combat the surge despite the city already being under alert level 3.
This as three Cordillera provinces will join Baguio under alert level 3 on January 14. The Inter-Agency Task Force will place neighbor Benguet, Kalainga and Abra in the growing list of localities placed under said alert level until the end of the month.
Magalong, however, assured Baguio residents that contingency measures have been set up to address the surge in cases. He said: “We can manage.”
He again asked residents to observe the minimum health protocol including wearing of facemasks, observing social distancing and avoiding crowded places.
Magalong, who spent Christmas in the United States, further advised the public to avoid social gatherings to avoid transmissions.
“This is a big challenge, let us not take this lightly. If possible avoid staging social gatherings and appealed to all barangays to postpone all thanksgiving activities” to stem the spread of the virus, said Magalong in another video aired on Facebook live.
He said that with the cooperation of residents, the surge will be ended by mid-February.
He added: “If we cooperate and collaborate, we will be able to deal with this variant.”
New Year, New Battle
After a lull during the Yule season when new cases were on double, then single and even zero, the city suddenly saw a spike at the start of the new year.
By January 5, the city logged its first triple digit cases, 109, since the 103 on October 20 of last year. After dipping to 52 the next day, the city logged for the following three days 155, 200 and the 310 on Sunday when the alert level 3 order took effect.
The Sunday number topped the projection of the City Health Office that worst case scenario the city will have between 250 to 280 cases daily.
Moreover, CHO chief Dr. Rowena Galpo said the spike could be at the middle of the month with the peak at the fourth week of the month until mid-February.
Sunday’s number appeared to be a fluke when ion Monday, the city recorded 110 new cases. But on Tuesday, the number went up to 365 which was even surpassed by Wednesday’s number.
The estimates, which were made by the University of the Philippines Baguio Department of Mathematics and the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, were based on the current situation. However it may “still change as the days go by,” said CESU head Dr. Donnabel Panes.
She said the factors considered in making the assumptions were the cases at the same time last year, the Delta variant surge and vaccination rate among others.
Panes earlier said local health authorities are “hoping that with the Omicron peak, the city would see less hospitalization and death unlike in its Delta variant experience when the city recorded a big number of severe cases and deaths.”
“We might be expecting a big number of cases but what we would like to see is less people having severe symptoms and being hospitalized with the success of our vaccination program and the sustained control measures set in place by the city,” she said.
The CHO, meanwhile, said that it is ready to face the Omicron threat as contingency plan had been placed.
“We have learned a lot from our experience with the Delta variant that is why we have made some adjustments with the current contingency plan,” said Galpo, who reported that as of January 4, Baguio has no confirmed case due to Omicron.
She added: “We are more prepared now for the Omicron which is reportedly more infectious but less severe than Delta according to the experience of other countries.”
Of the numbers on Wednesday, 90 are moderate, 282 are mild and two are moderate.
Since January 1, the city has already logged 1,786 new cases or about 149 new ones per day against a recovery rate of more than eight per day. There were already five deaths bringing the total fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 725.