City health officials said the new COVID-19 surge in Puerto Princesa is producing more new cases than ever before, but with less severe symptoms in patients.

The city recorded its highest single-day tally so far on Tuesday, when a total of 293 patients all tested positive after undergoing antigen and RT-PCR tests.

Dr. Dean Palanca, who heads the city Incident Management Team (IMT), and Dr. Ralph Marco Flores, head of the IMT’s contact tracing team, said in a live briefing on Wednesday that most who tested positive are fully vaccinated, which may explain why the patients either have mild symptoms or asymptomatic.

“’Yong bakuna ay nakakatulong sa atin na malabanan ang virus, kasi mayroon din siyang proteksyon na ibinibigay, kahit hindi para sa Omicron ang unang batch natin ng vaccines. Pero napag-aralan natin na nakakatulong talaga siya sa paglaban ng Omicron,” Flores explained.

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Panoorin ang live update ng City IMT. (Video courtesy of the Puerto Princesa City Information Office)

“Karamihan ng mga nakukuha nating cases ay fully vaccinated. Pero hindi ibig sabihin na mas maraming fully vaccinated ngayon ang [nagpo-positive]. Mas marami talagang fully vaccinated na ngayon, pero kung pareho lang ang mga tine-test natin sa unvaccinated, I’m sure mas marami pa ring unvaccinated na ngayon na magpo-positive,” he added.

Flores also said they are almost sure that the Omicron variant is behind the surge even without conclusive test results yet from the Philippine Genome Center.

He also added that what is happening to patients in the city is similar to what is happening in other countries with the Omicron variant, wherein the virus spreads more rapidly than other variants but is not as fatal as the Delta variant.

“Yong pagdami ng mga kaso ay senyales talaga na andito na ang Omicron. Kasi, kung titingnan natin sa ibang bansa, parang 300 percent ang pag-increase ng cases nila. Hindi pa natin naca-calculate kung mas nakakamatay talaga. Pero based sa nakikita sa ibang bansa, hindi ganun ka-deadly ang Omicron, pero mas nakakahawa, undoubtedly,” said Flores.

When asked if the city is going to once again use local hotels to augment quarantine facilities, which was done late last year due to the surge caused by the Delta variant, Palanca stated that in the meantime, there is no immediate need because most patients are home-quarantined.

“Naka-depende pa rin ‘yan sa sitwasyon. Kasi sa ngayon madalas ay naka-home quarantine ang mga pasyente, at ang mga kasama nila sa bahay positive din, kaya mas pinili na lang na sa bahay na lang,” said Palanca.

COVID-19 cases as of January 17
Flores said that the city’s COVID-19 cases do not exceed 100 from January 1 to January 7. However, the following days saw an upsurge in instances, and by January 8, they had surpassed a hundred.

“Nagtuloy-tuloy na po yon, yong mga cases parami ng parami. Yong mga kaso na nakikita po natin, yon ay dahil sa maraming pumasok na returning APOR and returning residents na alam natin na noong kasagsagan ng last week ng December ay pataas na at parami na ang kaso ng COVID sa Maynila, at yon ay nadala nila dito,” he said.

Flores said that based on the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU), the city’s active cases are 654. But if cases will be summarized since January 1 until January 19, cases have already reached 1,233 from 940 the previous day (January 18).

He said the speed of cases is turning fast, and most of the patients are in their 20s and 30s. However, they also have many senior citizen cases.

“Four times na, or 400 percent ng kaso natin. Kung baga yong Day 18 natin sa Delta nasa 250 lang tayo. Pero ngayon sa current surge natin… more or less 400 percent. Kung baga yong 1,200 po kasi sa Delta surge, isang buwan po natin na kaso. Ngayon, within two weeks, nakuha na natin yon,” he said.

“Ang pinaka nababahala ako dito ay yong sa mga pediatric age group, o yong mga below 18 years old,” Flores added, claiming he is alarmed since no one knows what will happen to them as they age.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.