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NegOcc may reimpose border closure; Bacolod records 1st Omicron case

BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN / CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO

With numbers of COVID-19 positive cases starting to rise again, which is likely to happen outside the National Capital Region, the possibility that Negros Occidental may re-impose border closure is no longer remote for Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

That is always a possibility, especially if cases go up again. All actions should be considered because we don’t want really another surge. But we just have to be prepared, Lacson said.

Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental have opened their borders in previous months after COVID-19 cases drastically went down.

With threats of Omicron variant, Lacson said that they will continue to strictly require S-Pass for those entering the province of Negros Occidental.

FIRST OMICRON CASE

This also developed as Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Executive Director Em Ang confirmed yesterday that Bacolod City has recorded its first case of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Ang disclosed that the patient is a 38-year-old male cruise ship employee, who is now placed in isolation in a quarantine hotel, after arriving in Bacolod City December 31.

On January 1, the patient’s genome sequencing results were released and it was confirmed that he had the Omicron-variant, Ang said.

Dr. Chris Sorongon, deputy for medical services of the Bacolod City EOC, assured the public that the patient had never gotten out of the quarantine hotel in the city.

Ang pointed out that there is no local case of Omicron in Bacolod City as the OFW may have acquired the virus abroad since he travelled on board a cruise ship from Florida to New York before arriving after two days in Manila on December 15.

Ang said the people of Bacolod have nothing to worry about since the patient has already recovered. Upon his arrival in Manila on December 15 he was made to undergo mandatory quarantine as required for all those arriving from international flights.

The patient, who is from Pampanga, was tested on December 19 and the result came out on December 20. And because he tested positive, he was transferred from a hotel to an isolation facility in Manila where he remained until he fully recovered. He was then brought to Bacolod on an OWWA-arranged sweeper flight for OFW, she said.

They received notice from the Department of Health (DOH) that the genome sequencing of his specimen tested positive for Omicron. So, City Health officer-in-charge Dr. Edwin Miraflor worked on the case, Ang said.

The patient was scheduled for re-testing for RT-PCR yesterday including his wife who is a close contact, she said.

Ang said the OFW, who is from Pampanga, is asymptomatic and is no longer infectious.  His is fully vaccinated and has taken his booster shot.

STEADY DECLINE

On the other hand, records of the Provincial Incident Management Team showed a steady decline in COVID-19 positive cases in Negros Occidental since November last year, as they only recorded 172 cases as of January 2, from a peak of more than 4,400 cases in October 2021.

Except for Metro Manila, which is now on Alert Level 3, all provinces have been placed under Alert Level 2 by the Inter Agency Task Force.

History tells us that whatever variants happened outside of the country that comes in, it also spreads in provinces, Lacson said, who called on Negrenses anew to continue wearing masks, observe physical distancing and proper hygiene.

While it is good that active cases in the province is going down, Lacson said “But that is before Omicron. We will see what happens.”*

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