Bontoc, Mountain Province sees 200% increase in COVID-19 cases

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — The Department of Health said Saturday it had observed an increase of over 200% in coronavirus infections in Bontoc, Mountain Province, where most of the new cases of the faster spreading coronavirus variant were seen in the past two weeks. 

“Meron pong 203% increase sa mga reported na kaso nitong nakaraang dalawang linggo kumpara noong mga naunang dalawang linggo at ‘yung sabi nating three times na increase doon sa average daily attack rate,” Dr. Thea De Guzman, epidemiologist from DOH Epidemiology Bureau, said in a briefing.

[Translation: There was a 203% increase in reported cases over the last two weeks compared to two weeks prior. There was also a three-fold increase in the town’s average daily attack rate]

The attack rate refers to the proportion of people who have gotten ill after their exposure to the virus.

Officials said they were verifying whether the spike was due to the gatherings held during the Christmas season.

The DOH reported 16 new cases of the B.1.1.7 variant which is believed to be more contagious than previous ones. Of the total number, 12 were from two villages in Bontoc, DOH-Cordillera Director Dr. Ruby Constantino told the same briefing. Eleven cases with the variant virus were recorded in one Bontoc village alone.

Extended lockdowns in affected villages eyed

Constantino said two affected villages are currently on lockdown. She added they also recommended a two-week extension of the movement restrictions to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“We talked to the mayor of Bontoc to extend the lockdown in affected barangays in order to contain the transmission,” she said.

Rising trend in cases in Cordillera provinces

Meanwhile, independent research group OCTA team also noted on Saturday that Mountain Province, Kalinga and Benguet, where one case of B.1.1.7 variant has been reported, “continue to have an increase in daily new COVID-19 cases,” noting the variant may be “culprit.”

The positivity rate in Mountain Province and Benguet is at 20% while in Kalinga, it was at 13%, the researchers pointed out.

The positivity rate of above 5% indicates that more testing is needed, the experts said. This is the percentage of people who test positive for the virus out of those overall who have been tested.

Constantino said the government’s technical working group on COVID-19 variants might recommend placing the entire Cordillera region under a stricter general community quarantine if their capacity to cater to COVID-19 patients dwindles further, noting that their health facilities were “almost fully occupied” as of Friday.

The DOH said of the new B.1.1.7 variant cases, three have already recovered, while 13 are currently ill. Three of the active cases are asymptomatic, and 10 are exhibiting mild symptoms.

The Philippines' first known case of the variant — a 29-year-old Filipino — has subsequently tested negative for coronavirus infection, officials said Friday. He arrived home from Dubai on Jan. 7. Authorities said at least 14 people who came in contact with him have contracted COVID-19.