A city health official said that although it is no longer a major cause of concern, COVID-19 is continuing to the present.

Assistant City Health Officer and Incident Team Management Chief Dr. Dean Palanca reminded the public that the problem on COVID-19 is still lingering although it is no longer like what it was two years ago.

Palanca stated that they are still continuously encouraging residents to get tested if they manifest symptoms such as dry cough, colds and sore or itchy throats.

He added that while the once dreaded pandemic is now manageable, he still reminds the public to exercise precautionary measures.

Asst. City Health Officer and IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca explaining the latest COVID-19 status in Puerto Princesa City.

“Our problem with COVID is still present, although it is no longer a major threat to lives of people, we continue to detect positive cases in Puerto Princesa,” Palanca told Palawan news in an interview, Wednesday.

“While we can already handle it, we still request the people to be extra careful and if possible, still wear a face mask, especially if they have cough and colds because it is now hard to distinguish if what they have is simple flu or COVID,” he added.

No cause for alarm
Palanca however explained that even though there is a sudden rise of COVID cases again, it is not alarming especially now that people already know what to do and that it is now easier to address the problem.

The World Health Organization recently announced that COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

In the Philippines, alert level status in the majority of the provinces have also been toned down.

“But we still need to be vigilant about it,” Palanca noted.

Palanca said for the year 2023, the city has recorded a total of 372 positive cases – 118 for January, 65 in February, 63 in March, 54 in April and 72 in May.

He added that the virus has already claimed 12 lives this year with at least two fatalities every month since January.

“Except for April where we have zero deaths, last January there were three, in February there were four, in March there were two and this May, we already have three,” he said.

Most of the deaths however are either elderly or persons with serious diseases which were worsened by the virus because of complications, he said.

Tip of the iceberg
The problem he said however, is that the only people they were able to test were the close contact of those who were tested positive, who they required to be tested also because they developed symptoms, unlike when almost everybody were required to undergo tests.

“So if you will look at it, it is just the tip of the iceberg. The real data cannot be seen actually because people don’t undergo tests because they are no longer required,” he said.

The IMT chief also attributed the rising cases to the situation in Metro Manila where there was also a notable rise of cases.

With the sudden rise of cases in Metro Manila, the Department of Health has also cautioned that cases in other places may also increase, he said.

“If you will notice, cases in Metro Manila also rose so we already expect that we will follow along with other provinces and cities,” he explained.

“So the rise of cases really came from outside, particularly from Metro Manila or even in Cebu because there are no longer travel restrictions. But right now, what we see is that the majority, maybe 90-95 percent of the cases are locally transmitted,” he added.

He added that the emerging cases may be of Omicron sub-variants that although it is no longer highly dangerous, it is still dangerous especially for the elderly and those with comorbidities.

To further address the issue, Palanca said he has requested Mayor Lucilo Bayron to issue a recommendation to all public and private institutions and facilities for their personnel to undergo tests once they show signs or symptoms of the virus.

“This is just a recommendation and not mandatory because we cannot force them. It still depends on the head of offices,” he said.

He said tests are being given for free daily at the city’s molecular laboratory located at the Balayong People’s Park.

“RT-PCR tests are given every morning and antigen tests are conducted every afternoon. They just have to inform our COVID hotline or they can directly proceed to our molecular lab. We just cannot force them because we are already under alert level 1 so we can only recommend,” he said.

Palanca explained that health protocols to be observed by those who are tested positive is home quarantine, except for those who need extra medical attention.

Majority are advised to undergo home quarantine. But for the elderly or those with other illnesses, the Ospital ng Palaawan still has their COVID ward where patients are brought,” he said.

And we also have our facility in Barangay Sta. Lourdes that cater to patients. We have IMT nurses there. Usually, patients who are vaccinated stay five to seven days but if not, they might have to stay a little bit longer until such time that they no longer have symptoms,” he added.

Vaxx drive
Palanca also said the IMT is still continuing with its vaccination drive, encouraging residents who are not yet vaccinated to proceed to the Puerto Princesa City Coliseum, and in different barangays with the COVAC team.

He stated that while other provinces and cities may have stopped with their vaccination drive, Puerto Princesa City is still pushing through with its campaign particularly for those who still have not received their 2nd booster shot.

He however said he noticed that fewer people are now inclined to get vaccinated, particularly those who already received first and second doses and are no longer interested to receive their booster shots.

“It is still better for them to have two booster shots, especially now that we are again having a rise of COVID cases,” he said.

Palanca added that they still have enough supplies of vaccines in stock which is from the original batch that was sent during the height of the pandemic.

As far as I know, we still have enough from our previous supplies which include those from China (Sinova and also Pfizer which our COVAC team gives,” he said.

He also said that while he has no available data with him, the city has already reached the targeted herd immunity citing the high rating of their vaccination campaign.

“Actually, Puerto Princesa is one of the cities with the highest vaccination rating,” he said.

“But still, we need to encourage our people to get vaccinated considering the fact that the cases are once again rising,” he added