Capitol mulls new border protocols amid COVID-19 surge in China

By John Noel E. Herrera

The Iloilo Provincial Government is considering new border control and health and safety protocols against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

This, after the Department of Health (DOH) urged all health officials in the country to intensify the monitoring and implementation of border control protocols for incoming individuals, especially from China which is experiencing a renewed surge in COVID-19 cases recently due to a more contagious variant.

“We are executing our latest COVID-19 protocols under alert level 1, and we have to change that kung amo sina,” Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. said.

“If that is the directive of DOH, then we have to come up with different protocols now. Tan-awon ta danay kung paano naga-sulod diri ang Chinese nationals diri sa aton, waay kita direct flights, ti bantayan naton sa domestic. Kita diri sa Iloilo, hindi man gid amo sina ang sulod sang Chinese nationals,” Defensor added.

Defensor noted that the provincial government still needs to coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)-Iloilo and wait for additional instructions coming from the DOH as the province is currently under the COVID-19 Alert Level 1 status.

“Mahulat man kita bi anay sang directive sang DOH kung ano ang himuon gid naton kay sa aton di ang treatment naton sa COVID-19, it is endemic na,” Defensor said.

“Mang-usisa anay kita kung ano to ang COVID-19 situation sa China. Kay sa aton di, it’s like a new flu, and hindi na kita pwede gid kapanghugot nga maapektuhan man ang ekonomiya, hindi na siya amu na para sa aton, tapos na kita para dira,” he added.

Under Alert Level 1, there are no restrictions in terms of indoor and outdoor capacities and the public can undertake intrazonal and interzonal travel without regard to age and health status.

All establishments are also allowed to operate, persons are allowed to work, and activities can be done at total onsite or venue seating capacity, provided these are consistent with minimum public health standards.

Meanwhile, Iloilo Provincial Health Office (PHO) head Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon said that PHO is ready to face these challenges as “surveillance were already in place and we have already coordinated with CAAP.”

“So far, naghambal man ang manager sang CAAP nga wala man kita direct international flights nga naga-abot di sa Iloilo, and of course, kung mag-abot man na to sila sa Manila, gina take care man gid na sang Bureau of Quarantine, gina-inform man na kita diri, just in case may ara suspected cases, and gina ready man kita,” she added.

Colmenares-Quiñon also urged the public to continue observing minimum health standards, such as the use of face masks, proper sanitation, and social distancing.

She also emphasized that the province’s vaccination coverage should be improved, especially for senior citizens and those with comorbidities, while Iloilo’s healthcare utilization rate is still at low risk with 39.45 percent of allotted beds being occupied.

“Dapat i-improve gid naton ang vaccination coverage naton. Ang worry naton, although napasar man naton ang fully vaccinated for A2 population, which is ang aton grade is 75.41 percent of our senior citizens have been vaccinated, but sila gid ang aton priority kay mabudlay kung magmalasakit sila sa COVID-19, kay (iba) indi sila vaccinated, basi ma moderate to severe case sila,” she said.

Defensor also noted that the province has a low vaccine booster rate as the public might feel complacent already because of low recorded COVID-19 cases.

“The uptake is not like that anymore, kay ti daw waay na ang problema. No takers na booster naton,” he said.

Recent data from IPHO indicated that out of 88.33 percent who had already finished their first and second doses of vaccine, only 19.69 percent had been administered with the first booster shot, and 1.68 percent completed their second booster shot.