Mountain Province posts 36 Covid-19 deaths; discipline keeps cases down in towns

>> Saturday, March 27, 2021

Checkpoint at the Besao-Sagada border   

By Gina Dizon  

BESAO, Mountain Province --  This Province  now as of March 26  has 36 Covid-affected deaths,  792  active Covid cases and 1,549  recoveries with the capital town of Bontoc registering the highest 339  active cases with 981 recoveries and 18 deaths followed by  the vegetable town of Bauko and the tourist town of Sagada, data from the Provincial Health Office reveal.
    This, as coordination and discipline between government and private sectors kept cases down in some towns.
    Besao, for one, which first registered the first Covid positive case in June of 2020 in this once Covid-free province learned lessons and put these to good use.
    Besao had only seven active cases and no Covid-caused deaths as of March 26.
    This, as travel restrictions were eased by the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases under resolution 101 requiring no mandatory tests and no quarantine leading to a surge of Covid positive cases nationwide.
    Besao imposes health and safety rules among locals who come home or travelers who do errands in the town while vaccines for the public are not available.
    This far town can be reached via four road outlets and coordination is important, frontliner Samuel Casiben said who mans the Banao hub bordering the nearby town of Sagada.
    Strict border controls are observed in the hubs with frontliners informed of the name and address of traveler before they can enter Besao.
    There are four border hubs in this  town bordering Abra on the north with hub at Tamboan, Ilocos Sur in the west with hub at sitio Maliten, Tadian south with hub at sitio Nakawang and Sagada east with hub at sitio Banao.
    Travelers are previously identified – both for locally stranded individuals and regular travelers to nearby areas.
They have to isolate themselves when they reach home.
    Melany Timmango, local IATF member said, “We request our travelers to stay at home upon return from travel from Bontoc or elsewhere. Even those who come from the city though the national IATF Res 101 no longer requires quarantine, kailyans who travel home are  still required to quarantine. It’s good they adhere to our request.”
    “Discipline is key”, Casiben added.  “At first some people are not taking it seriously, but eventually they are made conscious that Covid is real with information and education sessions done by barangay health workers, he added.
    Before the passage of IATF resolution 103 that requires local government units to implement Covid-19 coordinated operations to defeat epidemic (CODE), Besao’s barangay health workers and officials were actively involved in preventing the spread of Covid-19. 
    Casiben is one among frontliners which include barangay officials,  tanods, health personne, police and staff from the local government alternating in hubs 24/7.
    All of the recent Covid positive cases were travelers from Bontoc with the first ones, high school students who came from Kalinga, Casiben said.
    LSIs were instructed to go to their respective isolation sites in the barangay hall to prevent mingling with family members and the public.  
    Covid infected patients were asked to divulge whom they had been mingling and talking with who are asked to isolate, subjected to swabbing and tested with RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction).
    ‘We require immediate isolation of primary contacts,” Timmango said.
    Barangay halls were turned into isolation facilities where primary contacts were quarantined.
    Primary contacts were swabbed and RT-PCR tested five days after isolation and made to complete the 14 day- quarantine period.
    They could not get out from the isolation site except on “essential purposes.”
    Besao conducts RT-PCR tests for travelers from Bontoc and elsewhere and other high risk areas to determine positive cases     and contain the spread of virus.
    The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the incubation period for Covid-19 is between 2 to 14 days after exposure.
    More than 97 percent of people who contract SARS-CoV-2 show symptoms within 11.5 days of exposure.
    Incubation period is the period between exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.
    Lockdowns are implemented should many positive cases affecting several households in the barangay, Timmango added.
    And like other culture-rich towns where people often come together either at work or during rest periods, people are advised that they can work in the fields but not in groups.
    “During wakes, those who come from the city or outside of Besao from can attend from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. Upon arrival they isolate. They do not attend the burial mass,” Timmango said.
    Strict wearing of masks and social distancing is a must.
    And how about the Authorized Persons Outside of Residence (APORS who are allowed to get inside and out of town.  
 APORs are required to show their identification cars and TR-PCR tests that they are negative of the virus and briefly stay in town, Casiben said.
    Besao is one of three towns aside from neighboring Tadian and Natonin in the eastern part of the Province with low Covid cases and no Covid-affected deaths.
    One among the heavily populated towns in the Province, Tadian has 14 active cases and 19 recoveries.
Natonin has five Covid cases and 17 recoveries.
    Bernard Foryasen who hails from Natonin said he was required to have negative test before he could come home from the city.
    Natonin practices lockdown and has been swabbing primary and secondary contacts since mid-year of 2020.  
    Natonin registered its first positive case in July last year from an asymptomatic kailyan-Overseas Filipino Worker from Saudi Arabia.
    Local rules require business traders allowed to go out from the municipality and back to  Natonin on same day without stopover in  nearby Paracelis.
    Rapid diagnostic tests are applied on traders before exit and only allowed exit and entry when negative.
Tadian with 13 active cases has hubs going to nearby Cervantes, Ilocos and entry from those coming from Abatan-Bauko junction where anyone can enter from the Halsema and Baguio-Bontoc road.
    Tadian implements strict border controls aside from quarantines and negative Covid tests upon entry.
Heavily populated Bauko with gateways along the Bontoc-Baguio road at Mabaay and Tadian Abatan junction road has 149 active Covid positive active cases with 117 recoveries and three deaths.
    Very close 3rd among municipalities  with the highest Covid cases in the Province is Sagada, a once vibrant tourist town with 19 barangays  registered 148 Covid positive active cases, four Covid-affected deaths and 77 recoveries.
    The vegetable producing barangay of Balugan, Sagada registered 30 active cases which caused the villlage’s total lockdown for five days from March 23 to 29.
    This as authorities and Sagada-netizens appealed to close contacts of Covid cases to submit themselves for swabbing 
Sadanga which does not impose community lockdowns nor require travel documents registered five  deaths, 38 active cases and 71 recoveries.        
     Sabangan with most of its barangays located along the Bontoc- Baguio road had gradual increase of Covid cases with 57 cases, three Covid- affected deaths and 125 recoveries.
    Heavily populated Paracelis the gateway to nearby bustling city of Santiago, Isabela had 13 Covid cases, 87 recoveries and two deaths.
    Barlig which previously registered low Covid cases suddenly surged following IATF resolution 101 now has 23 active cases, one death and 20 recoveries.
    Uniform IATF-DOH protocols  require wearing of masks, social distancing, ,avoidance of crowds, washing of hands frequently, and boosting of  immune system; including  ‘stay at home’ protocols  for those 15 years old and below and 60 years old and above, those with co morbidities and immunodeficiencies  and pregnant women. 


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