(UPDATED) There is a new COVID-19 outbreak in Puerto Princesa, and it might be due to the currently predominant and dreaded Delta variant strain, a city health official said Thursday.

As of September 22, the city’s total active laboratory tested (antigen and RT-PCR) cases was 521 — 147 are asymptomatic and 374 are symptomatic. Six deaths were also recorded on the same day; five died at home, the other patient died on arrival at the hospital.

“Maaaring ito na yon (Delta variant), wala lang tayong confirmation. Dr. Dean Palanca, commander of the Incident Management Team (IMT) told Palawan News in a phone interview. “Oo, may surge na ito, pataas na ito. Tataas pa ito. Nag-start ito mga first week ng September”.

“Pagdating ng September, nakita mo biglang taas na lang talaga kasi marami pa ring carriers dito sa labas,” he said, citing that the surge this time is comparatively faster than the last that Puerto Princesa experienced.

Dr. Eunice Herrera, director for quarantine facilities of the IMT, also said in a post on September 23 that from a total of 264 on September 16, COVID-19 cases increased to 521 (or 50.6 percent) on September 22.

“From 0 antigen and O RT PCR death from September 16 to 22 (3pm) to 6 COVID deaths na nangyari noong September 22 at naitala lamang at na-validate noong September 22 ng hapon. At take note, sa 6 deaths na yan ay 5 namatay sa bahay at 1 dead on arrival sa hospital,” Herrera said.

The last surge was in March up to July. In April, five barangays in the city were locked down due to high cases, and peaked cases happened in May.

Based on the September 22 data presented by the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU), the barangays with the highest cases are San Pedro, San Miguel, Sta. Monica, San Jose, Tiniguiban, San Manuel, Sicsican, Bancao-Bancao, Mandaragat, Tagburos, and Mangingisda.

To date, he said health care utilization in the city is already at 80 percent, and the surge is just starting. “What more sa next month?” he said.

“Talagang delikado kapag wala kang bakuna tapos palabas-labas ka ng bahay mo. Baka maraming mamatay,” Palanca said. He said this is not a scare tactic, but having the anti-Covid vaccine can help protect a person.

Palanca also warned hospitals could be full in a matter of weeks. And the city does not have enough hospital bed capacity to accommodate patients who might be needing special care. 

Cause of new surge
Palanca said there is a new surge because residents cannot be stopped from holding “illegal gatherings” when the strict quarantine relaxed.

“Marami kasing nagkakaroon ng mga illegal gatherings. Hindi na nagpapaalam sa amin, bawal kasi yon lalo na more than 10 people. Nag-lax na tayo, ang daming activities, ang daming pinupuntahan ng mga tao,” he said.

More than two weeks ago, he said 40 individuals tested positive from attending social gatherings.

He said returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) also have different protocols, where they’re allowed to go home without being quarantined.

“Yong mga ROF, nag-request kami ng quarantine protocols sa kanila, pero hindi pinayagan. Ang nangyayari, pauuwiin namin sila sa bahay. Pero, possible carriers sila,. Kahapon (September 22) may nahuli kami nanaman, positive siya. Pangatlo na yon. Isipin mo, paano kung asymptomatic siya?” he said.

IMT to request GCQ with heightened restrictions
Palanca said Puerto Princesa is under general community quarantine (GCQ), but they’re going to request GCQ with heightened restrictions.

“Wala pa tayog heightened restrictions. GCQ lang tayo ngayon, pero yon na ang gagawin namin, magre-request na kami ng heightened restrictions,” he said.

He said of the six individuals who died, four had not received their vaccines, one only received the first dose, and the other two doses. He has not checked if the patient who received two doses was elderly.

In municipalities in Palawan, the total of COVID-19 active laboratory tested cases (antigen and RT-PCR as of September 22 were 842, according to a post by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO).

The municipality of Brooke’s Point logged the highest number of cases at 208, followed by Taytay with 95.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.