Puerto Princesa City officials are expecting more increase in COVID-19 cases after the request to temporarily ban selected travelers from entering the city was rejected by the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (RIATF).

But while the travel ban was disapproved, the RIATF has allowed the city government to require mandatory RT-PCR testing prior to travel and facility quarantine for unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated travelers upon arrival, as new travel guidelines.

The new travel guidelines include mandatory 7-day facility quarantine. Authorized persons outside residence (APORs) staying for five days or more in the city need to undergo mandatory facility quarantine at their expense.

Returning residents and tourists also need to secure a negative antigen test one day prior to their flight, and must undergo strict home quarantine for seven days. Yap implored returning residents to strictly follow their home quarantine because according to their records, some returning residents infected their relatives by not strictly following protocols.

City IATF spokesperson Atty. Norman Yap said because the travel ban was disapproved, city health officials expect cases to rapidly rise in the coming days. However, they do not expect healthcare facilities to be easily overwhelmed compared to last year.

“Ang purpose sana ng travel ban was to delay the curve [from rising] para hindi ma-overwhelm ang mga hospital. Dahil walang travel ban, we expect in the coming days na mabilisang pagtaas ng mga kaso, and hopefully ang mga hospitalizations ay hindi ma-overwhelm na kagaya ng dati,” Yap said in a live briefing on Saturday.

“To achieve that goal, mayroon naman tayong magandang vaccine coverage. Yong grand total ng ating vaccination, kasama ang mga may single dose pa lang, ay 295,815 or almost 300,000 jabs in total. The vaccination coverage is quite good, and that is probably why we have a low hospitalization rate,” he added.

Likewise, Dr. Dean Palanca of the city Incident Management Team (IMT) stated that based on their observations on recent COVID-19 patients, cases are increasing more rapidly, but most patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. He added that hospitals in the city are not yet at critical levels because patients are not being hospitalized.

“Ang ating healthcare utilization ay hindi ganoon kataas pa. Nasa 20 to 25 per cent pa lang tayo ng ating surge at wala pa tayo sa peak. Maaring mag-peak tayo sa end of January or early February at maaaring umabot tayo ng dalawang libo,” Palanca said during the same briefing.

The city government initially wanted to bar returning residents and tourists from entering the city because most who tested positive for COVID-19 in the past few days were incoming travelers and their close contacts.

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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.