City IMT chief Dr. Dean Palanca presents Puerto Princesa's current COVID-19 situation in an online live briefing.

The Puerto Princesa City government requested a higher quarantine classification from the national government due to rising COVID-19 cases this month, in what local health officials described as due to “possible Delta variant”.

The City Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) requested an upgrade from general community quarantine (GCQ) to either GCQ with Heightened Restrictions or GCQ Alert Level 4. Stricter health protocols, such as some business closures and more mass gathering restrictions, will be implemented if approved by the national government.

City health officials stated that they strongly believe it is the Delta variant that is causing another surge because of faster rates of infection among patients, and also because more children are testing positive for the highly infectious virus.

The city IATF resolved in a meeting on the same day that in order to deal with another surge, Puerto Princesa must be placed under a higher quarantine classification, according to IATF spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap. The new classification, however, will be decided upon by the national government most likely by the end of September, Yap explained.

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“Nagkaroon kasi ng bagong requirements ang national government, kaya napagdesisyunan na dalawa ang i-apply na GCQ. Depende na lang sa national government kung ano ang i-aassign sa atin. Baka in three days, makaka-receive na tayo ng reply sa kanila,” he said.

The two higher quarantine classifications, GCQ with Heightened Restrictions and GCQ Alert Level 4, carry different mandatory public health protocols. For example, under GCQ with Heightened Restrictions, conventions and social events and indoor sports are not allowed, while most businesses can remain open. Under GCQ Alert Level 4, there are additional restrictions, such as that hotels and resorts cannot accept guests for staycations, and restaurants must only accept fully vaccinated customers. There is an emphasis that only fully vaccinated individuals can freely enter establishments under GCQ Alert Level 4.

Delta variant possibility
City Incident Management Team (IMT) head Dr. Dean Palanca said in the same briefing that while they have yet to confirm through genome sequencing, he strongly believes that it is the Delta variant that is causing the renewed surge.

“Bagama’t wala pa tayong confirmation, we think it is the Delta variant talaga. Kasi kung titingnan ang mga symptoms, ang bilis ng infection, at ang bilis ng onset of symptoms,” he said.

Infection in toddlers seen
Palanca added that they are also seeing infections in children, particularly toddlers. He added that children are now the primary occupants of the city’s hospitals and isolation centers, which is notably different from last year when COVID-19 patients were mostly adults.

“This is very unusual. Noong simula, June or July this year, halos walang bata. Ngayon, for the last ten days, puro mga bata. May 1 year old na nagdedelikado na ngayon,” he said.

“Kaya, ang mga magulang, dapat talaga ay magpabakuna na kayo, kasi ang mga bata, wala pang mga bakuna ‘yan,” he added.

Deaths in unvaccinated individuals
Palanca further stated that in this new surge, they are also seeing more deaths again. He explained that these are again mostly among unvaccinated individuals, wherein 90% of recorded deaths from June to September were all unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. He also added that it is the densely populated urban barangays in Puerto Princesa that have the highest number of cases.

Aside from a surge in new cases, health officials are also seeing hospitals filling up and hotels converted into quarantine facilities being overwhelmed. This is because they are now isolating even close contacts of COVID-19 positive patients. Palanca explained if the current trend of increasing cases continues until October, they could be seeing as many as 4,000 infections.

“Right now, ang ating active cases, tumtabo tayo sa 700 plus. So expect natin kung ganito pa rin ang ating pattern, nasa 20 days from now, aabot na tayo ng 4,000 active cases. Hindi namin kakayanin ‘yan, kasi almost 1,000 lang ang kaya natin i-handle sa ating isolation and quarantine facilities,” said Palanca.

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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.